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Reaching Carbon Reduction Goals will Increase Loads on Network

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Jan 17, 2022

Many countries, including the USA, have ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reductions. The Biden administration has set a goal to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by 2030, in a transition to a carbon-neutral economy in the year 2050. That will require moving a great deal of transportation to electric vehicles and electrifying buildings and industrial processes which currently utilize fossil fuels.

This will need a total transformation of the electric sector and will involve a large expansion of the power grid. Load management in these challenging circumstances will be increasingly important, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a nonprofit research organization. About 20% of end-use energy consumption in the United States today is electricity, but that could rise to 60% by 2050 as the country moves towards a carbon-neutral economy, according to EPRI's analysis. This is a huge increase in dependence on electric power, requiring better energy planning and modelling and collaborative innovation across the industry, and supportive policies and regulations from authorities.

With a much larger grid, increased loads will become the norm, and there will be significant risks to manage, such as outages and cyber security attacks. Power outages caused by hazardous weather in Texas, California, and the Southwest region show that risk assessments must be reconfigured to account for the climate crisis.

To meet the 2030 target, EPRI sees electricity's share of end-use energy consumption rising from 20% to 33%. Projecting out to 2050, that could rise to 40-60%.

To achieve a 50% greenhouse gas reduction, EPRI has projected load increases of 16-23% by 2030, according to Thomas Wilson, a principal technical executive in the energy systems and climate analysis group at EPRI. This group projects more than 500 GW of new power capacity will be built by 2030 — though not all of that is needed for demand growth. Some will go to replacing generation currently provided by coal, natural gas, and other fossil fuels.

DONALD KANE's picture
DONALD KANE on Jan 17, 2022

This massive increase in load will be coupled with the massive increase in DER integration, potentially stressing the grid in both "directions".  This will be especially precarious on the distribution system.  Coordinated management of loads and all DERs will be critical.  Distribution utilities will need to be able to distinguish load from generation and storage at a very granular level on each circuit and station, and in many cases, even beyond the customer meter. 

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Jan 18, 2022

Thanks for your comment, this indeed will be the case.  A serious, and little-considered issue.

Julian Jackson's picture
Thank Julian for the Post!
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