Electricity Use and Delivery


The EPRI Power Delivery & Utilization sector develops technologies and approaches to facilitate higher levels of grid reliability, efficient use of energy and grid transformation. Research addresses major challenges such as growing demand for electricity, mitigating carbon emissions and aging infrastructure. Key areas of research include smart grid, electric transportation, transmission, distribution, substations, energy utilization and grid operations and planning, among others.


For more information please contact:

Annie Haas
Communications Manager
Phone: 704-595-2980
Email: ahaas@epri.com

Haas, Annie

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Information, Communication and Cyber Security Electricity Use Electricity Delivery
Information, Communication and Cyber Security

ERRI's ICCS portfolio focuses on enabling technologies for modernizing the grid, fusing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into every aspect of electricity service. EPRI's Cyber Security and Privacy Program addresses the emerging threats to an interconnected electric system through collaborative research on cyber security technology, standards, and business processes to protect the electric grid. Utilities around the world are embracing these concepts as they place increased attention to deploying additional sensors, enabling the mobile workforce, focusing on data analytics, and managing information technology/operations technology (IT/OT) convergence to get to an optimally integrated, modernized system.

Information and Communication Technology:

Utilities are increasingly deploying monitoring, communications, computing, and information technologies to enable grid modernization applications such as wide area monitoring and control, asset management, distribution automation, integration of distributed energy resources and demand response. Companies face significant challenges when deploying these technologies, including:

  • Selecting the technologies that best meet current and future business needs, while minimizing the risk of early obsolescence and vendor lock-in;
  • Creating an overall architecture that integrates the many intelligent devices, communications networks, and enterprise systems to leverage resources and provide information to all users;
  • Mining and managing the tremendous amount of data that is generated, converting the data into actionable information, and effectively presenting the information to the people who need to take action;
  • Managing a growing network of intelligent devices that have different capabilities and use different protocols and data formats in a way that optimizes performance; and
  • Ensuring that the workforce has the skills necessary to design, operate, and maintain equipment and systems that use new technologies.
Cyber Security and Privacy:
Cyber and physical security have become critical priorities for electric utilities. The evolving electricity sector is increasingly dependent on information technology and telecommunication infrastructure to ensure the reliability and security of the electric grid. Specifically, measures to ensure cyber security must be designed and implemented to protect the electric grid from attacks by terrorists and hackers, and to strengthen grid resilience against natural disasters and inadvertent threats such as equipment failures and user errors. The Cyber Security Program of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) focuses on addressing the emerging threats to an interconnected electric sector through multidisciplinary, collaborative research on cyber security technologies, standards, and business processes.
The increasing numbers of sensors, wireless devices and distributed energy resources on the grid relies upon robust and reliable telecommunications networks in order to transmit data and information. At the same time, the telecommunications networks themselves are undergoing rapid transformation. EPRI's Telecommunications research and associated Telecommunications Initiative is dedicated to helping industry understand and navigate these major operational shifts by testing and evaluating related technologies, networks, and configurations.
Smart Grid Demonstration:

The Smart Grid Demonstration Initiative was a seven-year collaborative research effort to design, deploy, and evaluate how to integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into utility grid and market operations. The Initiative leveraged multi-million dollar investments in the smart grid by the electric utility industry, with the goal of sharing information and research results on a wide range of smart grid technologies and applications.

Twenty-four utilities from Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan and United States collaborated in the Initiative.

Standards and Interoperability:
Much of EPRI's work provides guidance for the development of national and international equipment and power delivery standards, such as the language smart devices use to speak with each other, or the type of socket used for electric vehicles, so that regardless of device, connectivity won't be impacted.
Energy Storage

Today's consumer is able to receive more information than ever before about how, where and when electricity is being used. Some even produce and consume their own electricity. Understanding the trends in consumer energy use, identifying the information that resonates with consumers, ensuring connectivity of devices in the home or business, and even how energy storage can play a role in the equation, can provide utilities the data and analytics needed to justify new investment and deploy new technology, while continuing to provide the most reliable power and the most affordable price.

Power Quality:
Electric utilities worldwide consistently report that power quality (PQ) is a fundamental component of three key utility business performance metrics: grid system performance, utility economic performance, and customer satisfaction. A number of key trends are driving a resurgence in interest in electric power quality performance: the need to increase the economic performance of existing infrastructure; the need to reduce the cost of grid operations and repairs; managing and responding to increasing grid complexity; and the desire to retain existing and attract new load by improving PQ performance and related customer support.
Energy Storage:

Energy storage and distributed generation technologies are attracting increasing interest from utilities and regulators as localized flexible grid assets. Storage can act as a buffer between electricity supply and demand, increasing the flexibility of the grid and allowing greater accommodation of variable renewable resources. Distributed generation (DG) entails the production of power at or near load centers, thereby augmenting or substituting electricity infrastructure with DG fuel infrastructure, where appropriate. Both storage and DG may provide temporary solutions for regional and local capacity shortages, and may provide relief to localized transmission and distribution congestion.

Technology advances, as well as investment in production capacity, have resulted in significant cost reductions of energy storage and distributed generation. However, the economic use of these technologies still generally requires the user to take full advantage of multiple potential benefit streams. The various applications that contribute to the value of distributed resources have different requirements, and the ways in which these requirements are coincident or competitive are still being explored. Technologies such as fuel cells, microturbines and small reciprocating generators are still relatively expensive in terms of installed capital cost, but low fuel costs and opportunities offered by the application of combined-heat-and-power (CHP) architectures may make them increasingly cost-effective options in the future.

It is important to understand the factors that may make storage and distributed generation technologies technically and economically viable in the future, whether the devices are owned and operated by utilities, by customers, or by third-parties. While storage and distributed generation options are rapidly maturing and are beginning to become practical in grid applications, there are still significant challenges to overcome.

Research projects that address these challenges can help move practical storage and distributed generation technologies forward and enhance the value of these technologies to society.

Energy Efficiency and Demand Response:

The electricity industry must meet customers' continuous demand for power as well as provide safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible service to customers. Utilities and policy makers in the United States and abroad are increasingly turning to energy efficiency as a resource to help address these challenges. Many U.S. states have enacted legislation that mandates specific energy-efficiency savings goals, and some explicitly require utilities to place energy efficiency as the first opportunity in their resource planning initiatives. Key to the realization of these goals is the development and adoption of emerging energy-efficient technologies and best practices.

In addition, it is important for utilities to characterize the grid impacts of customer interaction with emerging energy technologies, and to develop platforms for their integration as resources to enable an Integrated Power System. Interaction with the 'connected' customer that will provide both energy efficiency and demand response benefits that are crucial for the utility of the future.

Understanding Electric Utility Customers:
Customers are growing more and more sophisticated, with increasing expectations of value, speed, and reliability based on service interactions in multiple business sectors, such as home entertainment, business computing and communications, and the Internet of Things. These expectations are carrying over to the electricity sector. At the same time, customers are beginning to consider options related to electricity supply and use, with choices often coming from third parties, not their utility. Technology advances are giving customers more choice and control over when and how they use electricity, including smart appliances and thermostats, plug-in electric vehicles, and options for local generation, such as rooftop solar photovoltaics. The choices customers make are already having recognizable impacts on the electricity system, particularly on energy consumption and load shapes, and these impacts will continue to grow.

Business enterprises are constantly striving to increase productivity and enhance their competitiveness in the global marketplace. In many cases, electrification – i.e., the application of novel, energy-efficient electric technologies as alternatives to fossil-fueled or non-energized processes – can boost utility productivity and enhance the quality of service to the enterprise and the customers it serves. Electricity offers inherent advantages of controllability, precision, versatility, efficiency, and environmental benefits compared to fossil-fueled alternatives in many applications. A lack of familiarity and experience with emerging technologies, however, impedes many enterprises, particularly small- to medium-sized businesses and civil institutions, from pursuing electrification measures that can improve the productivity and efficiency of operations. Such enterprises would benefit from information and support from their electric utility.

However, electric utilities themselves face obstacles to serving as effective partners in this regard. Identifying and measuring the prime opportunities for electrification in a given service territory can be difficult. Utilities must also reconcile electrification strategies with mandated energy efficiency goals that are usually narrowly defined in terms of kilowatt-hour reductions. Moreover, the lack of an analytical framework for quantifying the net benefits of electrification strategies – from the customer, utility and societal perspectives – hinders the development of utility-business partnerships to facilitate beneficial electrification.

This research program aims to address these gaps by developing and refining analytical tools and a knowledge base of technologies, applications, and markets and facilitating stakeholder networks to help utilities evaluate and pursue electrification opportunities.

Energy Storage

Electricity touches many elements of our remarkably reliable system – from generation source to transmission line to distribution substation – before it reaches the home or business. But this reliability becomes challenging as more distributed energy resources, new technologies and even everyday weather events place strain on existing infrastructure. EPRI's Transmission and Substations, Distribution Systems, and Grid Ops and Planning teams tackle the issues that utilities deal with each day, and look ahead to the system of the future to make sure utilities are prepared for what's to come.

Transmission and Substations
Overhead Transmission:

This program helps transmission owners enhance safety and reliability, and reduce construction, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. The program offers a portfolio of tools and technologies to increase transmission capacity, reduce capital expenditures for new and refurbished equipment, and understand the expected performance for specific components throughout its life cycle, including: insulators, compression connectors, conductors, and composite structures. The program also tackles issues such as lightning and grounding, live working, transmission capacity, and methods for assessing the condition of overhead lines. The program delivers a blend of short-term tools such as software, reference guides, and field guides, and longer-term research such as component-aging characteristics and the development of inspection technologies including the conductor corrosion inspection tool.

Underground Transmission:

Underground transmission systems consist of extruded and laminar dielectric cables and accessories. While a significant portion of the installed cable base is laminar dielectric cables, the trend has shifted towards installing more cables using extruded dielectric technologies.

This EPRI Underground Transmission Program is structured to support utilities with challenges in design, construction, installation, operations, and maintenance of both extruded and laminar dielectric cable systems. Cross-cutting research addresses issues such as design calculations, static and dynamic cable ratings, and inspection methods. Research specific to extruded dielectric cables focuses on cable thermo-mechanical performance and advanced sensing and monitoring. Research specific to laminar dielectric cables focuses on cable and system diagnostics and buried steel pipe corrosion. One project is designed to focus on technology transfer and knowledge capture for transmission cable engineers of utilities installing or considering underground transmission lines. The project includes educational outreach, EPRI Green Book update, Increased Power Flow Guide Book update, industry engagement, and member technical supports in various formats. In 2016, a new project, Cable Systems Asset Management Analytics, is created to address issues in implementing asset management concepts and decision-making procedures.


This program helps substation owners enhance safety, reliability, equipment life, and performance, as well as maximize the return on asset investments and prioritize their resources. It offers a portfolio of tools and technologies such as risk based asset and fleet management decision support analytics and transformer monitoring. The program also provides training materials and resources to improve equipment life management such as failure databases and aging models.

HVDC Transmission:

Traditionally high-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines have been used for point to point power transfer over long distances and between asynchronous systems. Applying HVDC Transmission technology may provide options to increase the throughput in existing and new right of ways, to integrate renewable resources in the AC power grid and to increase the overall power reliability.

Distribution Systems:

The traditional electricity distribution system philosophy has been to design and maintain a system that provides the required level of reliability and resiliency in the most cost-effective manner —minimum cost for all customers. Today, system designers and operators need to continually improve the efficiency and reliability of the distribution system, accommodate a high penetration of distributed energy resources (DER), and maximize utilization of existing distribution assets without compromising safety and established operating constraints.

Significant changes to distribution design and operating practices are needed to accommodate these new requirements. At the same time, utilities will continue to grapple with the ongoing challenges of an aging infrastructure, increasing customer expectations, increasing competition for resources, and an aging workforce. Recent experience with major storm events has also revealed a need to re-examine practices for designing, maintaining, and operating the distribution system to improve its overall resiliency.

Tools and technologies, such as distribution management systems, automation systems, protection systems, and planning tools must be designed to facilitate modern grid operation. New technologies and their integration will be critical to enable grid designers and operators to meet these goals. Many of these activities support EPRI's "The Integrated Grid" initiative.

EPRI's Distribution Systems Program has been structured to provide members with research and application knowledge to support planning and management of the grid today and the transition to a modern integrated grid. The Program includes research that supports grid modernization and provides tools for planning, design, maintenance, operation, and analysis of the distribution system. Members of the Program gain access to a portfolio of projects that cover the range of distribution issues, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other members and EPRI technical experts to share ideas and solutions, improve knowledge transfer, and ultimately improve safety, reliability and operational performance.

Integration of Distributed Energy Resources:

Increased amounts of distributed energy resources (DER) in the electric grid brings a number of challenges for the electric industry. Utilities may face large numbers of interconnection requests; distributed generation on some circuits will exceed the load; and many operating challenges involving feeder voltage regulation, hosting capacity limits, inverter grid support and grounding options are brought to bear. Furthermore, providing reliable service as DER penetrations increase and electricity sales diminish can also add economic and business challenges to the technical ones.

This Program addresses the aforementioned challenges with project sets that assess feeder impacts, inverter interface electronics, and integration analytics. The Program evaluates case study experiences and strategies related to future business impacts. It also evaluates leading industry practices for effective interconnection and integration with distribution operations. Many of these activities support EPRI's "The Integrated Grid" initiative.

Finally, the Program includes lab and field evaluations and demonstrations of improved DER power management and communications. A primary objective of the work in the field is to expand utility hands-on knowledge for managing distributed energy resources—without reducing distribution safety, reliability, or asset utilization effectiveness.

Grid Operations and Planning
Grid Operations:

In many ways, today's power system must be operated to meet objectives for which it was not explicitly designed. The transmission system is operated to transfer larger amounts of energy over greater distances utilizing an increasingly higher percentage of non-traditional resources than were considered when it was built. Generation resources are more constrained and increasingly more variable and uncertain. Demand resources are now increasingly used for resource adequacy and providing ancillary services in many regions. All of these changes are occurring at a rate that is outpacing corresponding growth in transmission infrastructure. As a result, today's grid is operated much closer to the margin.

Under these circumstances, it is imperative that operators be provided with good information based on real-time data regarding the status of the system, as well as decision-making support to respond to rapid changes that might occur in the near future. The emergence of new sources of real-time data from synchrophasor measurements, asset health sensors, and forecasts of future load and variable renewable output levels, along with improved information and visibility of alarms and protection system implications, enable the possibility of providing operators with increased situational awareness and advanced decision-support tools. System operators need such tools to continue to reliably and economically operate the system in the face of emerging challenges.

EPRI's Grid Operations research program is addressing these needs by improving real-time situational awareness, developing tools that use synchrophasor and other measurements to assess the present system operating point relative to thermal, transient, and voltage stability operating limits, evaluating methods for more intelligently managing alarms, and developing tools to manage the grid through extreme events and restore the system in the event of an outage.

Grid Planning:

Traditional power system planning methods and tools are becoming less effective in today's power system environment. Transmission owners and operators not only need to plan for future demand growth and increasingly uncertain generation portfolios, but also to provide transmission services from generation resources that include significant portions of variable generation (VG) technologies that are often remote from load centers and have significantly different dynamic behavior from synchronous generation. The challenge of meeting reliability requirements with the changing landscape and increasing levels of uncertainty may necessitate adjusting and augmenting transmission planning criteria and methods.

Transmission planners are also increasingly tasked with considering deeper and varied contingencies requiring screening of many more potential contingencies and prioritizing the contingencies for more detailed analysis. They also need to perform analysis of "special" circumstances such as the impacts of geomagnetic disturbances on system reliability, and non-traditional impacts such as high levels of harmonic distortion. Some of these more advanced contingency analyses may also require closer coordination and explicit integration of protection system models in planning models.

Resource planners are also increasingly challenged as environmental regulation forces the retirement of some conventional generation, as supply resources become more variable and uncertain, and as distributed and demand-side resources become more viable. Additionally, demand response and extreme temperatures in traditionally shoulder load periods are increasing the uncertainty in load levels at specific points in time. As a result, resource adequacy planning methods may require more consideration of the operational uncertainties associated with renewable energy and load forecast errors.

Bulk Power System Integration of Variable Generation:

Recently there has been a significant increase in the implementation of renewable energy, due to both policy decisions such as state-mandated renewable energy standards and federal air and water standards, along with improved economic viability for these resources. Much of the estimated development of renewables comprises variable resources such as wind generation and solar photovoltaics (PV), which when integrated with the grid, create new challenges for maintaining reliable system operation. Future projections are that a more significant build-out of these variable renewable resources is likely at both the transmission and distribution levels.

With these developments, power system planners and operators require new tools and resources to ensure a reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective supply of electricity to consumers. New tools needed include improved and/or new sources of system flexibility to respond to and accommodate the increase in energy variability and uncertainty, the development of additional transmission infrastructure to deliver energy from remote locations, and planning and operational methods and software to effectively plan and operate the bulk system with these new resources, many of which may be at the distribution level. EPRI's Bulk Power System Integration of Variable Generation (VG) research program addresses these needs and directly supports EPRI's Research Imperatives #2 "Integration of Dynamic Customer Resources and Behavior" and #3 "Integrated Power System and Environmental Modeling Framework."

Integrated Grid:

The role and operation of the electric power system is evolving to accommodate changes in the ways electricity is produced, delivered, and used. Through a combination of technological improvements, policy incentives, and consumer choices in technology and service, the framework of the industry is changing. At center stage is the increased integration of distributed energy resources as part of strategies to make the power system more flexible, connected and resilient. Utilities are balancing daily and long-term strategies; the need to ensure that existing assets perform effectively while the utilities adapt their assets to a changing grid, and also create new technologies for a system that's an optimal balance of distributed and centralized generation --- an Integrated Grid.

The concept of an Integrated Grid was outlined by EPRI, noting the goals to realize the full value of a transformed power system – its diverse inputs, efficiencies and innovation. An Integrated Grid should make it possible for stakeholders to identify optimal architectures and the most promising configurations, recognizing that solutions vary with local circumstances, goals, and interconnections.

Through EPRI's Integrated Grid Initiative, utilities and other stakeholders now have a roadmap for optimal integration of distributed and centralized generation, and they are putting those roadmaps to the test through a series of Integrated Grid pilot projects. For more information visit integratedgrid.com.