EPRI report aims to provide guidance for utility R&D

Palo Alto, CA, Feb. 7, 2007 — The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has released a new analysis to guide strategic research and development (R&D) investments under four plausible scenarios facing the North American electric utility industry in the next 20 years.

The scenarios are various combinations of high fuel costs and carbon constraints — high gas prices, high emissions prices; low emissions prices; low gas prices, low emissions prices; and, low gas prices, high emissions prices.

With increased attention focused on global climate change issues, one possible scenario, for example, is high emissions costs and higher fuel costs. Under this scenario, the priority R&D targets would include enhancing nuclear energy generation, renewable energy, energy storage and increasing efficiency of the electricity infrastructure from generation plants, transmission and distribution delivery systems through to industrial processes and customer based end-use devices.

The report identifies critical technology needs in seven areas: power generation, electric energy storage, environmental controls, power delivery, end use, power and fuel markets, and markets. It then maps the technology requirements to the above the plausible scenarios in the electric utility sector.

“This report serves as a guide for electric utilities, regulators, manufacturers and other key stakeholders when they consider their RD&D objectives and funding priorities,” said Robert Schainker, the report’s principal author. “Our analysis details the current status of technology and identifies the gaps, which is highly valuable when utilities consider their RD&D options in a carbon-constrained operating environment.”

EPRI conducted a series of workshops with stakeholders that included utilities, universities, state and federal governments, to identify the likely R&D requirements. While the report does not predict the future, it considers alternative futures and the appropriate R&D technology gaps that address the technical challenges associated with the alternative futures.

In order to strategically direct R&D funding, utilities responding to this possible scenario should sponsor research, development and deployment work, paying particular attention to streamlining the regulatory regime for building next generation nuclear generation plants, enhancing the efficiency of wind and solar systems, demonstrating new energy storage options and working with manufacturers to increase the efficiency of end-use devices, such as advanced lighting, high efficiency air conditioning and industrial and commercial electric motors, said the report.

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