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Evolution of the North-American Electricity Systems – Potential Policy Priorities

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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-01 - State of the Industry, click here for more

My 2021 predictions regarding where governments, in their policy work, will focus their efforts on a low carbon electricity market. These will encompass supporting of the development of non-emitting or low emitting technologies that will largely influence reductions of GHGs. Important among these technologies are: 

  • Fourth generation nuclear technologies (small modular reactors); these nuclear units will be required to provide baseload power, in place of the retiring coal units, as well as backup power to variable wind and solar energy generation. Several competing technologies are being developed with few having deployment potential around 2030. 
  • More economic carbon capture and storage technologies, to remove post-combustion CO2 from fossil sources. These to be installed primarily on gas turbines used for baseload and intermittent power in support of variable renewables. 
  • Conversion of coal units to gas-fired units. 
  • Expansion of distributed energy resources in the form of demand response, battery storage, and combine heat and power. 
  • Deployment of short duration (Li-Ion) battery storage systems in support of variable generation.
  • Research, development and deployment of cost-effective long duration storage devices, notably liquid air energy storage, pumped hydro and hydrogen. 
  • Expansion of wind and solar generation with use of smart inverters and integrated with smart grids. 
  • First stage of load electrification (expanded electric vehicles at 30% penetration rate, electric space and water heating, heat pumps). 
  • Expanded transmission systems both intra-state (intra-province) and inter-state (inter-provincial) to move clean renewable power to displace thermal generation and provide ancillary services such as storage.
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