IEEE Researchers and Engineers Developing Power Grid Plan

EarthzineArticles, Climate, Energy, OpEd, Original, Sections

Image of the Working Session during the 5th Urban Research Symposium on 'Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an urgent agenda'

Lakeside Power plant near Orem, Utah 2007. By D. Jolley.

Lakeside Power plant near Orem, Utah 2007. By D. Jolley.

What would you think if you turned on the lights in your house and they weren’t bright enough to read by because you and your neighbors were charging electric cars for the commute tomorrow? For almost one hundred years, we have come to assume that electricity is there at the flick of a switch. With the limited construction of power plants in the last decades, that assumption could be challenged. The generation of electricity in the United States from 2000 to 2007 increased less than ten percent. The electric industry will face additional challenges with the institution of greenhouse gas emission limits.

What can be done to better prepare for the future? The best way to approach this question is from an end-to-end analysis – from construction of the power plants to the end-user impacts. Although greenhouse gases have become an area of great attention, there has been a void in most countries for short, medium, and long term planning to address the power grid requirements that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To move in this direction, an IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee for Environment and Greenhouse Gases has set up a study group to address climate change and greenhouse gas management.

The power study group, composed of industry and academic volunteers, will address the challenges that will be faced by the electric grid in the future. This international group is investigating the impacts of the transportation infrastructures, industrial processes, and residential loads on the electric grid based on the most probable technological changes with consideration of economic constraints. The generation, transmission, and distribution system requirements to support these changes are the main focus of the subgroup. These requirements will be based on the most probable solution with economic constraints, emerging technologies, generation emissions, and energy efficiency improvements taken into account.

This subgroup will be coordinating with many groups internationally, both in the IEEE and outside, that have already performed much of the work. Where there are voids, the group will identify research that is needed. The mid and long term components of the plan under development will be revised periodically as research is completed and technologies reach maturity/financial feasibility. Each country should be able to take the work performed by the group and develop their own plan based on geographic and resource constraints.

Since this is an IEEE Standards Association project, the ultimate goal of the group is to identify standards that may be needed. However, the most probable scenario has to be known before standards can be identified. Ultimately, the group will supply the answer to many questions such as how to handle an electric/hydrogen vehicle fleet where there is no infrastructure in place and how to evolve existing infrastructure in a way that is economically feasible with the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the new generation required.

For more information and to join:

Tom Field