In last month’s newsletter I wrote about “bridging the energy gap,” the gap that exists between current production capabilities and restricted new generation capability with the growing demand for future energy use and the demand for cleaner more efficient energy generation potential.

The industry as a whole will continue to innovate and evolve future plant improvements, enhancements and designs to meet the upcoming challenges. However we will and are seeing development into new areas. In a 2007 report by Social Technologies, a global research and consulting firm, through work with a global focus group of experts in technology, innovation, and business strategy produced a list of the top 12 expected areas for technological innovation through 2025. Among the top 12 were:

Distributed Energy

– The Social Technologies group expects energy generation and delivery will move from central to distributed sources, increasingly featuring local generators that can be linked when needed for greater output. Specific innovations will include:

  • Advanced electric storage devices and batteries at all scales
  • New power systems with source-switching flexibility
  • New energy management systems

The industry is already seeing the advancement in both of these areas. For example, Xcel Energy is testing out NAS (sodium sulfite) battery technology and integration with its wind farms, AEP recently ordered 7 megawatts (MWe) of storage from NGK in hopes that the batteries will smooth out its current power production, and companies like NuScale Power are developing distributed generation capabilities through the development and commercializing 45MWe light water nuclear reactors.

Carbon Management

– The Social Technologies group expects that technologies currently in R&D will prove to be effective for greenhouse gases that are proving more difficult to measure and control than previous pollutants. Innovations will include:

  • Effective “measure, monitor, and verify” systems
  • Affordable and effective carbon capture and storage technologies and systems for coal-burning power plants
  • Low to zero emission controls for transportation

Again, utilities have invested heavily in the evolution, design and development of, among others, mercury emissions measurement and monitoring technology and new mercury capture techniques and applications.

Utilities have played and will continue to play a significant role in the development and testing of new technologies for use on a commercial scale. Continuation of and access to the R&E Tax Credit will help support and encourage both regulated and non-regulated utilities investment in these critical technology areas.

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