Myepri: The Electric Power Institute
The Electric Power Research Institute is a non-profit organisation that is funded by numerous major North American energy suppliers and other stakeholders with of the aim of delivering and co-ordinating research activity in the area of electricity generation and delivery. It has links to around 90% of electricity providers in the United States and is composed of a number of scientists, academics and industry figures. The aim of its research activities is to enable electricity to be provided in a way that is reliable, economical, but also safe both for human health and for the environment. It has offices in a variety of offices across the US, namely Palo Alto, California, Knoxville, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Lennoxtown, Massachusetts.
In 1965 the North-Eastern United States suffered from one of the most disruptive power outages in its history, the Great Northeastern Blackout, which affected users in a large area that spread from New York State and Pennsylvania into much of New England, and even into Ontario, Canada, leaving 30 million users without power in one of North America’s most densely populated regions. The resulting search for blame and for what lessons could be learned led to a series of congressional hearings, in which it was recommended that a new body be set up, the Electric Power Research Institute to coordinate research and development work in the electricity industry, developing better metering and monitoring technology in order to prevent such widespread disruption from occurring again. Since its creation in the early 1970s, the EPRI has widened its remit to include a wide range of research efforts examining all aspects of thepower industry, its technological needs, and its environmental impact.
As well as offering collaborative research and development aimed at meeting the short and long-term needs of the more than 200 organisations who are collaborators and stakeholders, the EPRI ’s research activities are organised around its longer-term strategic goals. Chief among these is the intention to reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly before the year 2030, via the energy savings and greater efficiency offered by the establishment of a smart grid, advanced, more efficient coal generation, the wider use of renewables combined with large-scale electricity storage, along with the development of carbon capture technology.
- Stated Goals Include
- Strengthening the Power Delivery Infrastructure
- Enabling the Digital Society
- Boosting Economic Productivity and Prosperity
- Resolving the Energy/Environment Conflict
- Managing the Global Sustainability Challenge
As part of its strategic vision, the EPRI undertakes detailed scenario planning to guess what the future requirements of its stakeholders will be, allowing political and business decision makers to predict how different events and uncertainties in politics, the economy, and technology will affect future technology and societal needs. Scenario planning allows for some of these variables to be tested, such as predicting the impact of fluctuating natural gas prices, increasingly strict governmental climate policies or various “wildcard” developments in energy technology on future market demand and infrastructure requirements.
These broad-brush strategic aims are used to guide more specific research carried out and disseminated by the EPRI. Former research projects have included topics such as:
- Measuring levels of mercury and selenium in wastewater and assessing potential their potential health impacts. These elements, along with other heavy metals such as cadmium, are common by-products of coal-fired power stations.
- Devising new tests for particulate matter. Particulate matter is again a common product of combustion-driven power generation, particularly from burning coal that is high in sulphur. Such particles have a number of well-known effects.
- Research on the potential health effects of aerosols and other pollutants from combustion-based power production.
- Research on the effects of electromagnetic fields on human health. Electromagnetic fields are associated with power lines and have long been a source of controversy with a claimed link between exposure and a number of conditions such as childhood leukaemia. Methodological concerns make this an ongoing area of research interest.
- The creation of special interest groups (SIGS) for nuclear power, along with ocean power, solar power, and other renewables.
- Research towards the creation of an “intelligent grid”. Smart grid technology is seen as part of a drive towards greater sustainability by using advanced information technology to allow the integration of a wider range of differently-sized generators on the supply side, while also allowing better monitoring and responsiveness to customer demand with the aim of greater overall efficiency and a lower carbon footprint.
Research is published via the EPRI website and via a number of other means of dissemination such as prize ceremonies.