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NuIdea Initiative to Enable Nuclear Energy for the District Energy Market

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Jeremy Shook's picture
Principal Project Manager, Nuclear Innovation Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Jeremy has extensive and diverse experience in the power and energy industry, including electric generating facilities, district energy facilities, and US naval nuclear power plants. 

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  • Jan 13, 2023
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Finding ways to decarbonize the economy is key in the fight against climate change. District energy, the production of energy at a central plant for distribution to multiple buildings, has significant decarbonization potential. It has been in use for nearly 150 years globally in a variety of applications including higher education, central business districts, healthcare, research campuses, municipalities, airports, military bases, and government complexes.

By centralizing energy production and aggregating the needs of multiple customer buildings, district energy systems provide the following advantages:

  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Reduced energy costs
  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Enhanced resiliency and reliability

Traditionally, district energy systems have used carbon-based fuels for power. Today, many of these end-user institutions and facilities are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. The U.S. Department of Energy reports there are nearly 700 district energy systems currently operating in the United States. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2021, emissions from district energy systems accounted for about 3.5% of global CO2 emissions. 

Options to achieve decarbonization include connection to a green electric grid, switching to low carbon fuel sources, and use of nuclear energy. Advanced nuclear technology can provide the necessary energy in a carbon free manner while providing significant reliability and resiliency with onsite energy generation.

With the development of a class of reactors suitable in size for campus and other institutional environments known as microreactors, nuclear energy could have greater flexibility for use in district energy settings to help address the market drivers of decarbonization and resiliency.

To further explore this application, EPRI has launched the Nuclear In District Energy Applications (NuIdea) Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to assess the potential for nuclear energy for the district energy market by 2026.

EPRI has been joined in the NuIdea Initiative by the International District Energy Association (IDEA), the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), Burns & McDonnell, CenTrio Energy, Constellation, Duke Energy, North Carolina State University, Sargent & Lundy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and several other organizations across the higher education and healthcare markets.

This collaborative will develop a roadmap to determine the nuclear-related technical, regulatory, and policy challenges associated with district energy. Once the roadmap is published, the NuIdea Initiative will work to address any challenges identified for nuclear energy as a solution in district energy applications.

In November, EPRI Vice President of Corporate Affairs Katie Jereza was invited to provide an update on NuIdea and EPRI’s district energy-related research activity at COP27 in Egypt. She participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) entitled “The Role of Advanced Nuclear Technologies for Hard to Abate Energy Sectors.”

Discussion on this topic will continue as district energy professionals in the campus sector participate in CampusEnergy 2023, February 27 – March 2, in Grapevine, TX. EPRI’s research will be highlighted at the event.

Learn more about district energy, microreactors, and how nuclear energy can decarbonize industry:

Current and Past Use of District Energy Using Nuclear Power: A Review of Nuclear District Energy Facilities - EPRI

Decarbonizing Industry with Nuclear Energy: A Review of Nuclear Industrial Applications - EPRI

International District Energy Association - YouTube

EPRI
Founded in 1972, EPRI is the world's preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world.
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