The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is a non-profit research and development (R&D) organization that is celebrating its 50th year in 2022. EPRI’s trusted experts collaborate with more than 450 companies in 45 countries, driving innovation to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe.
We sat down with Erik Steeb, senior technical leader of technology innovation at EPRI, to understand more about the organization, its Low Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator (LCHA) project, and its deep decarbonization goals for 2030 and beyond.
So, let’s start from the top. How can we describe EPRI’s work?
“EPRI produces research into the electricity value chain, from production, through transmission and distribution, to end-use,” Steeb tells us. “In other words, we focus on how energy is produced, moved and used.” “Our work is by necessity highly collaborative, working with stakeholders around the world to ensure our electric power system continues to meet the needs of society.”
Decarbonization in the electric power industry is an important aspect of our R&D in looking at opportunities to increase zero-carbon supply, while ensuring the electricity grid remains reliable, efficient, affordable, and flexible enough to support large and intermittent loads.
Yet, research into and changes in power production and the electricity grid won’t be enough to meet the world’s decarbonization goals all by itself, Steeb says. “We’re also working to help decarbonize other sectors around the economy as well. Much of the work we do in the energy end use area is focused on the electrification of buildings, transportation, and commercial and industrial processes.”
“The trouble is, Steeb adds, “that some sectors of the economy are really difficult to electrify and will require low-carbon fuels like hydrogen and ammonia.”
“EPRI’s Low Carbon Resources Initiative (LCRI), launched in 2020, is a multi-year collaboration across the electricity and gas sectors to enable such solutions. With nearly 50 sponsors so far, the initiative is bringing together investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, original equipment manufacturers and more to accelerate the deployment of low-carbon technologies. While much of this innovation will come from existing industry leaders, it’s important that we also engage the startup community. That’s where the LCHA comes in.”
So, what is the LCHA? It’s collaborative effort between EPRI, Shell, and the City of Houston (the hydrogen capital of the world)—alongside Greentown Labs and the Urban Future Lab (UFL) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. The LCHA is an initiative intended to facilitate innovation and support startups creating solutions that enable hydrogen as a low-carbon energy source.
Image 1: Tineline Overview
“This group represents an unparalleled mix of talent and resources. As incubators, Greentown Labs and the UFL lead startup outreach and coordinate the program,” he explains. “EPRI brings our research and development capabilities and utility connections to support the test and demonstration of promising solutions and Shell brings industry leading R&D and global reach to help carry promising energy solutions and products to scale.”
“It’s an amazing blend of resources and together, we offer startups support with technology validation and demonstration—with access to testing facilities, technical experts, and demonstration sites that help create pathways to scale”
“For our first year, we plan to engage six to eight startups with a focus on low-cost green hydrogen generation, storage and distribution, and digital solutions that enable hydrogen adoption,” he adds. “We’re working closely with Shell to understand which companies would benefit most from the pool of resources available within the accelerator.”
Ultimately, for Steeb and his colleagues at EPRI, the emphasis regarding decarbonization should remain on collaboration:
“There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done to hit the net zero goals by 2050,” he says. “And the reality is that no single organization will be able to achieve this by themselves. But that’s exactly the value of projects like the LCHA and our collaboration with Shell, Greentown Lab, UFL, and the City of Houston—and that’s part of why we’re so proud to be part of it.”
More special features here
Article son Energy here