The Smart Grid: Status and Outlook

The Smart Grid: Status and Outlook. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Richard J. Campbell. April 10, 2018

 The electrical grid in the United States comprises all of the power plants generating electricity, together with the transmission and distribution lines and systems that bring power to end-use customers. The “grid” also connects the many publicly and privately owned electric utility and power companies in different states and regions of the United States. However, with changes in federal law, regulatory changes, and the aging of the electric power infrastructure as drivers, the grid is changing from a largely patchwork system built to serve the needs of individual electric utility companies to essentially a national interconnected system, accommodating massive transfers of electrical energy among regions of the United States.

The modernization of the grid to accommodate today’s more complex power flows, serve reliability needs, and meet future projected uses is leading to the incorporation of electronic intelligence capabilities for power control purposes and operations monitoring. The “Smart Grid” is the name given to this evolving intelligent electric power network. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) describes the Smart Grid as “an intelligent electricity grid—one that uses digital communications technology, information systems, and automation to detect and react to local changes in usage, improve system operating efficiency, and, in turn, reduce operating costs while maintaining high system reliability.”

 [PDF format, 18 pages].

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The Dark Side Of Solar: How The Rising Solar Industry Empowers Political Interests That Could Impede A Clean Energy Transition

The Dark Side Of Solar: How The Rising Solar Industry Empowers Political Interests That Could Impede A Clean Energy Transition. Brookings Institution. Varun Sivaram. April 2018

 In recent years, solar power has surged to become the cheapest and fastest-growing source of electricity on the planet. Over the last decade, solar installations have grown annually by over 30 percent on average, thanks to costs that have plunged more than 90 percent. This red-hot growth suggests that in the near future, solar power could challenge fossil fuel dominance and help the world reduce its carbon emissions. As a result, solar has become the poster child of a putative clean energy revolution.

Yet such a revolution is in fact a long way off. Fossil fuels still supply most of the world’s energy needs. Today, solar power provides just 2 percent of the world’s electricity, and the generation of electricity, in turn, accounts for just a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. To avert catastrophic climate change, the world will have to nearly eliminate its emissions shortly after midcentury—a goal known as deep decarbonization—which will require the most ambitious overhaul of the world’s energy infrastructure in human history. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 20 pages].

Fostering Effective Energy Transition

Fostering Effective Energy Transition. World Economic Forum. March 14, 2018.

 The first edition of the Fostering Effective Energy Transition report, prepared with analytical support from McKinsey & Company, is part of the World Economic Forum System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy. The report introduces the “Energy Transition Index”, which builds upon the previous series of “Global Energy Architecture Performance Index” by adding a forward looking element of country readiness for energy transition. The index benchmarks 114 countries on the current level of their energy system performance, and the readiness of their macro environment for transition to a secure, sustainable, affordable and inclusive future energy system. The fact-based framework and rankings are intended to enable policy makers and businesses to identify the destination for energy transition, identify imperatives, and align policy and market enablers accordingly. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 44 pages].

Highlights from the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate

Highlights from the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate. Brookings Institution. David G. Victor et al. March 2018

 Led by Co-Chairs Bruce Jones, Vice President of Foreign Policy, and David Victor, Professor at UC San Diego, the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate mobilizes a core group of scholars with expertise in energy geopolitics and markets, climate economics, sustainable development, urban sustainability, and climate governance and regulation. With overseas centers in China, India, and Qatar, Brookings has experts in parts of the globe that encompass two-thirds of humanity, and three-quarters of the world’s energy production and global emissions.

Brookings has compiled a set of recent scholarship from across several research areas in “Highlights from the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate,” which explores the latest updates on key pressing issues in energy and climate. Topics include the future of climate diplomacy, enhancing innovation in clean technologies, carbon pricing, and the latest updates in global energy markets, among others. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 48 pages].

EPA’s Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions

EPA’s Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. James E. McCarthy, Kate C. Shouse. March 12, 2018.

 On March 7, 2018, the House passed H.R. 1917, a bill that would delay for three years the implementation of more stringent emission standards for new residential wood heaters. The emission standards were promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015, and are becoming effective through a two-step process. Step 1 standards took effect on May 15, 2015; unless delayed, more stringent Step 2 standards will become effective on May 15, 2020. EPA’s action revises standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves that were set in 1988, and establishes standards for other types of wood heaters, principally forced air furnaces and hydronic heaters, for the first time.

 [PDF format, 14 pages].

Europe Turns to Russia, and Elsewhere, to Meet Rising Gas Demand in 2017

Europe Turns to Russia, and Elsewhere, to Meet Rising Gas Demand in 2017. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Nikos Tsafos. January 18, 2018.

 In 2017, Europe imported a record amount of natural gas: Russia’s exports rose by 8 percent, reaching an all-time high; Norwegian pipeline exports reached an all-time high as well, up 7 percent; pipeline imports from North Africa were slightly down, but imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) rose by 16 percent—but still below their 2011 peak.

Higher imports came largely from higher demand. After a decade of almost steady decline, gas demand in Europe has risen three years now—a major reversal. Europe pulled in more gas from most major suppliers since there are no longer any systematic differences in pricing among them. Invariably, the headline take-away is likely that Europe became more dependent on Russian gas, which is true but also beside the point. The real take-away is that demand rose—and that a continent that will rely more on gas needs to remove the final obstacles in the way of a fully functioning internal market. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions

EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. James E. McCarthy et al. December 4, 2017

 On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama Administration rule that would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The action came in response to Executive Order 13783, in which President Trump directed federal agencies to review existing regulations and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources. Among the E.O.’s specific directives was that EPA review the CPP, which was one of the Obama Administration’s most important actions directed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

 [PDF format, 60 pages, 1.77 MB].