Bobi Garrett, Senior Vice President of Outreach, Planning, and Analysis at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), details how the United States' research community is working to provide renewable solutions to the global demand for sustainable energy…
Cutting through the noise is not something that jumps to the forefront when thinking about energy-efficiency and renewable energy research and policies that will influence the convergence of new energy systems on our grid in the coming decade. But in this age of readily available information, the noise can be so loud that it overwhelms decision-makers helping chart a path toward a sustainable energy future.
Advancements in computational capabilities have opened new doors and unlocked information to which we've previously not had access. We are now able to collect massive amounts of real-time information and mine the value out of that data
Through its energy analysis offerings, the US Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
provides tools to help researchers and decision-makers move the energy systems of today toward the sustainable systems of tomorrow.
Nobody wants to make a misstep as they work to address what we care about – a secure energy future that is environmentally responsible, while supportive of economic development. But from point A to point B, or even C, there are a range of investment and policy decisions – tax policy, energy policy, environmental policy – that impact how energy is developed over time.
By providing impartial energy analysis, we try to cut through the noise and deliver massive amounts of information within an understandable framework. Our analysis capabilities are unique and recognised as industry leading within the scope of our mission. Analysis is not just something that the lab provides for the use of others; we use analysis ubiquitously throughout all programmes. Doing so, we believe, will help accelerate the advancement of renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies as options that can be integrated and operated at scale in concert with other clean energy pathways.
In order to realise ambitions in efficiency and renewable energy technologies, researchers must have a firm understanding of other energy pathways – including fossil fuels and nuclear energy. On top of that, we must understand the policy and business overlays from the local to the global scale. Ventures such as the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA)
should help bring further insight into energy realms, beyond the renewable context.
Working thorough JISEA with the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, we have tried to tap into the best available resources to understand other energy pathways, the interactions with earth systems, and the interfaces between these systems and the social systems – policies and markets. Comprehending the dynamics of these interfaces is important to understanding how renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies are going to interact in the overall energy system, including the grid. In pursuit of this aim, we hope that the the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF)
will spur research organisations and industry to think about these issues differently, including how to deal with nested energy systems so the introduction of new technology allows our electric systems to evolve.
We need to provide insights and technologies to address the technology and system interconnection and control issues at all scales. Advancements in computational capabilities have opened new doors and unlocked information to which we've previously not had access. We are now able to collect massive amounts of real-time information and mine the value out of that data. In preparation for ESIF coming online, we are accessing our own real-time onsite energy data, including readings from every energy meter on the NREL campus, to mine the information value for both operations and research.
By making this and other rich datasets available to researchers and analysts, a new class of models can be built, providing insights on how to manage energy along with creating communications and control systems that don't exist today.
It is integral for the US to put its analysis capabilities on par with its science and technology research. All of these pieces will be key if we are to have an impact on the approaching energy systems transformation. We know there is no single energy future; no silver bullet. Using analysis and systems integration, we're supporting the conversation to emphasise the synergies among energy efficiency, renewable energy and traditional energy sources.