Nav: Home

New tool calculates emissions impacts, energy benefits from smart grid investments

July 15, 2016

RICHLAND, Wash. - "Smart grid" technologies significantly reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions resulting from power production and usage. Taken together, smart grid and intelligent buildings mechanisms could reduce national carbon emissions by 12 percent by 2030, according to one estimate. But, surprisingly, sometimes the opposite is true for an individual project. It all depends on a dizzying variety of factors, but a new tool developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory makes estimating those emissions impacts easy.

The free, web-based tool enables utilities and industry to evaluate not only the environmental impacts of adopting smart grid technologies, but can give organizations the operational data to sift through factors to justify the investment.

A paper outlining the science behind the tool is featured as a best conference paper at the IEEE Power & Engineering Society meeting in Boston on July 18.

The Emissions Quantification Tool calculates the resulting changes to carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and the energy and financial savings that may be achieved by integrating smart grid technologies. The evaluated technologies include coordinated electric vehicle charging schedules, battery-stored energy, and devices that enable integration of solar generation into the power grid.

"Users can quickly and easily screen different scenarios by varying the type of smart grid technology and other variables to best characterize their specific set of circumstances and location," said Karen Studarus, a power systems engineer at PNNL and project lead. "The modules we've assembled are being used right now to explore the impacts of proposed projects and understand the sometimes counterintuitive tradeoffs."

A business case for a smart grid

PNNL developed the tool with the guidance of a dozen utility and energy industry representatives who helped ensure the tool would deliver the high-level insights needed for a smart grid business case.

"As someone who's always trying to articulate the value of investments in smart grid, it's so useful to have a tool to illuminate the specifics driving that value," says Laney Brown of Modern Grid Partners, a utility consulting firm. Brown serves on the steering committee guiding the development of the emissions quantification tool.

Once a calculation is complete, the tool produces a detailed report with pre- and post-technology adoption comparisons. The report also informs the user on a number of variables. For example, how much energy storage would be needed to provide a certain operational benefit and what the resulting increase or decrease in emissions would be.

"With insights from the tool, utilities, policy makers, and companies can see the impacts, for example, of shifting energy use to a different time of day or of adopting additional renewable energy resources," said Studarus.

Emissions impacts can vary

Sometimes the results are counterintuitive. The tool can also uncover unintended or unanticipated results. For example, incorporation of coordinated electric vehicle charging in the Northeast would reduce sulfur dioxide -- an indirect greenhouse gas -- emissions by about 2.5 percent. But in California, the exact same level of coordinated charging actually found an estimated increase of 1.5 percent due to differences between the two regions.

Calculations are based on well-established data sources, including EPA's AVERT, or Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool, which maps hourly emissions benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs; solar energy data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and demand response models from the Brattle Group.

The tool is designed to be as transparent as possible in terms of the underlying data and algorithms so users can clearly understand how outcomes from scenarios were calculated.

"This is really uncharted territory," added Studarus. "Nobody's done this before, and the diverse utility community needs detailed information when it comes to understanding the impacts of smart grid technologies on the environment and the bottom line. A transparent and broadly applicable methodology not only estimates the benefit, it lets folks see more clearly how much faith they should be putting into the numbers."

DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability supported development of the Emissions Quantification Tool.

Get the tool

A prototype of the tool was demonstrated at the National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change in October. Users can try the Emissions Quantification Tool free of charge at SmartGrid.gov.
-end-
Tags: Energy, EVs, Batteries, Solar Power, Energy Production, Smart Grid

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1┬░Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...