Obama’s $27.2bn FY13 budget request for DOE includes transmission funding

President Obama’s $27.2bn fiscal year 2013 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy includes funding for transmission-related initiatives.

Specifically, the budget request includes $120m to support the Energy Frontier Research Centers, and $140m for the five existing Energy Innovation Hubs and to establish a new hub to focus on grid systems and the tie between transmission and distribution systems, DOE said Feb. 13.

“The United States is competing in a global race for the clean energy jobs of the future,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in the Feb. 13 statement. “The choice we face as a nation is simple: do we want the clean energy technologies of tomorrow to be invented in America by American innovators, made by American workers and sold around the world, or do we want to concede those jobs to our competitors?  We can and must compete for those jobs. This budget request includes responsible investments in an American economy that is built to last.”

According to the DOE’s Office of Science website, in August 2009, the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the DOE’s Office of Science established 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), which involve universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations and for-profit firms, singly or in partnerships. They were chosen by scientific peer review and funded at $2-5m per year for a five-year initial reward period. The EFRCs will harness basic and advanced discovery research in a concerted effort to establish the scientific foundation for a fundamentally new U.S. energy economy, DOE added.

The existing Energy Innovation Hubs include the “Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors Hub” and the “Fuels from Sunlight Hub,” according to DOE.

In its budget request, DOE discussed the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s (OE) efforts in electric grid research and development and electricity policy, noting that a modern electric grid is critical to meeting the country’s energy, environmental and security goals.

Without development and deployment of “next generation” electric transmission, distribution and customer technologies, the grid could become a barrier to the adoption of cleaner energy supplies and more energy-efficient demand-side measures, DOE said.

DOE’s request of $143m for FY 2013 for the OE is an increase of $4m compared to the FY 2012 appropriation. It also provides $20m for a new Electricity Systems Hub, which is a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing challenges to grid modernization. DOE added the request also includes $10m for advanced modeling grid research to continue development of computational and modeling capabilities needed to improve understanding and address the needs of an “increasingly complex grid.”

DOE said the OE has established five inter-related and interdependent strategic goals that inform program investment, including enhancing grid flexibility to incorporate various energy sources; maintaining reliability by developing real-time situational awareness to improve grid operations; and promoting regulatory structures that encourage efficiency in electricity markets.

Additionally, DOE noted that its request of $24m in FY 2013 for the clean energy transmission and reliability (CETR) program is a decrease of 6% from FY 2012, reflecting decreased funding levels for transmission reliability and renewables integration resulting from the closeout of activities focused on renewable integration into the transmission system. The CETR program, DOE said, supports modernization of the electric power grid through the development of advanced monitoring, control and computational applications to reliably operate the U.S. transmission system.

Three key strategies to more efficiently manage the program will be implemented, including partnering with the utility industry, national laboratories and universities to develop real-time synchrophasor applications and advanced computational approaches, DOE said.

Among other things, DOE also discussed the wind energy program, which contributes to President Obama’s goal for the U.S. to achieve 80% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

The most significant thematic changes in the program between FY 2012 and FY 2013 are the expansion of the offshore research innovations activities and demonstration of offshore technologies, which are offset by the reductions in completed gearbox and blade industry cooperative agreements, DOE said.

The program’s approach for FY 2013, through the innovations subprogram, is to lower wind turbine capital cost while increasing performance; improve overall wind plant performance; and improve wind plant reliability and reducing operating expenses.

Lack of transmission capacity is one of the largest barriers to increasing the country’s electricity from wind power, DOE said, adding that lack of transmission access is driving project developers to choose sites with less wind potential, which increases the resulting cost of energy.

For utilities to invest in new transmission infrastructure, information must be provided to better understand wind generation’s impact on the power grid, which is best accomplished through integration studies and research into fundamental model relationships in the transmission network, DOE said.

On offshore wind, DOE said funding supports research activities such as high performance computing of atmospheric physics affecting turbine dynamics and array effects, and the establishment of an offshore meteorology reference facility for validation of new models and instruments.

DOE also noted its $38m request for administrative operations for the loan guarantee program (LGP) to cover portfolio management and loan origination activities. The request will be fully offset with fee collections for a net-zero budget request, DOE said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3152 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.