Earlier this month, nearly 200 countries came together at the global climate conference COP28 in Dubai, UAE, agreeing to transition away from fossil fuels. At the same conference, more than 20 countries agreed to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050, and more than 100 countries agreed to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030. As countries and companies navigate an ever-changing energy landscape where ambitious clean energy targets need to be balanced with affordable and reliable transitions, it’s clear collaboration will be the key to ensuring a successful clean energy transformation.
As 2023 ends, the past 12 months have highlighted the rapidly changing energy sector and that only by navigating the changing energy landscape together will we successfully tackle future challenges and opportunities. This year, we have seen growing extreme weather and climate, surging European energy costs due to the war in Ukraine, increasing inflation in the U.S. and elsewhere, and the far-reaching impact of the first year of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These and many other issues have certainly made an impact on the global energy sector and will require everyone’s collective efforts. EPRI has been at the forefront of these and many other issues, and is aggressively working toward finding technology solutions that will ultimately benefit society.
For example, as the energy sector continues to decarbonize, there will be even more renewables and electrification, driving even more demands on the grid and requiring more complex planning. All this requires more complex solutions, including storage, planning, transmission, and clean technologies. Energy storage in particular will continue to play a key role as part of a reliable, resilient clean energy future. This year, EPRI, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Edison Electric Institute’s Institute for the Energy Transition, and the Long Duration Energy Storage Council signed a memorandum of understanding to accelerate the commercialization of long-duration energy storage. While shorter-duration energy storage is being installed to support current renewable energy generation, long-duration storage technologies can enable grid operators to utilize stored energy to help manage seasonal fluctuations in electricity demand. Cheaper and more efficient storage can make it easier to capture and store renewable clean energy for use when energy generation is unavailable, playing an increasingly important role as part of a reliable decarbonized grid.
Meantime, advanced nuclear energy and hydrogen both received a significant amount of attention this year, recognizing the potential to assist as part of the clean energy transition. In May, EPRI and the Nuclear Energy Institute jointly released an advanced reactor deployment roadmap, which outlined an achievable path for the successful deployment of advanced reactors. Among its contents, the roadmap discussed seven enablers for large-scale deployment—and established ownership and implementation targets for 46 key actions that could help deliver advanced reactors into the market. The roadmap’s first phase focused on North America, and additional phases will focus on other global regions.
As for hydrogen, this fall DOE named seven recipients of a combined $7 billion in funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to establish regional hydrogen hubs. This year, EPRI continued to collaborate with various companies on blending demonstrations, testing the technology to assist in powering natural gas-fired engines. Hydrogen has tremendous potential to help companies and countries achieve net-zero targets but needs time to be commercially viable. The shared learnings from these demonstrations will be invaluable on the road to commercialization.
Additionally, more electric vehicles (EVs) are expected on roads over the next few years. Can the grid handle the increased usage and is the EV infrastructure ready to support this increase? In August, EPRI launched a new, three-year initiative—EVs2Scale2030™, collaborating with more than 500 stakeholders including Amazon, the U.S. Department of Energy, and leading electric companies to ready the grid in support of the accelerated development of EV charging infrastructure. Its first major deliverable has already been issued–eRoadMAP™–a free, publicly available interactive online resource that allows users to explore how quickly EVs are expected in different regions and identifies energy needs across the U.S. at the individual feeder level. The tool is intended to help electric power companies and industry stakeholders plan for the power and infrastructure needed to serve EVs.
Another issue trending this year was the increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI). As EPRI Senior Technical Executive Jeremy Renshaw testified before Congress this fall, AI provides a powerful tool for energy companies. For more than a decade, EPRI has been studying AI and its potential impacts on the energy sector, and in the last five years, the institute has accelerated its activities around AI and data science. To date, EPRI has been involved in more than 70 projects related to AI applications in the energy sector. As EPRI research found, AI can help energy companies improve efficiency of existing assets, assist with wildfire risk evaluation and early-stage detection, aid vegetation management and storm recovery, and optimize energy usage, among other benefits.
Throughout the year, EPRI research continued to highlight that a successful clean energy transition will require careful planning and shared learning. A broad set of low-carbon technologies—including hydrogen, nuclear, wind, and solar—underpins a reliable, affordable transformation, whether in the U.S. or around the globe.
As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” By EPRI and other key energy stakeholders collectively working together, we can have a reliable, affordable, equitable clean energy transition for all.