New tool calculates emissions impacts, energy benefits from smart grid investments

New tool calculates emissions impacts, energy benefits from smart grid investments
Use of "Smart Grid" technologies can impact carbon emissions -- but by how much? A new Emissions Quantification Tool can estimate the answer to that question. Credit: PNNL

"Smart grid" technologies significantly reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions resulting from power production and usage. Taken together, smart grid and intelligent buildings mechanisms could reduce national carbon emissions by 12 percent by 2030, according to one estimate. But, surprisingly, sometimes the opposite is true for an individual project. It all depends on a dizzying variety of factors, but a new tool developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory makes estimating those emissions impacts easy.

The free, web-based tool enables utilities and industry to evaluate not only the environmental impacts of adopting smart grid technologies, but can give organizations the operational data to sift through factors to justify the investment.

A paper outlining the science behind the tool is featured as a best conference paper at the IEEE Power & Engineering Society meeting in Boston on July 18.

The Emissions Quantification Tool calculates the resulting changes to carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and the energy and financial savings that may be achieved by integrating smart grid technologies. The evaluated technologies include coordinated electric vehicle charging schedules, battery-stored energy, and devices that enable integration of solar generation into the power grid.

"Users can quickly and easily screen different scenarios by varying the type of smart grid technology and other variables to best characterize their specific set of circumstances and location," said Karen Studarus, a power systems engineer at PNNL and project lead. "The modules we've assembled are being used right now to explore the impacts of proposed projects and understand the sometimes counterintuitive tradeoffs."

A business case for a smart grid

PNNL developed the tool with the guidance of a dozen utility and energy industry representatives who helped ensure the tool would deliver the high-level insights needed for a smart grid business case.

"As someone who's always trying to articulate the value of investments in smart grid, it's so useful to have a tool to illuminate the specifics driving that value," says Laney Brown of Modern Grid Partners, a utility consulting firm. Brown serves on the steering committee guiding the development of the emissions quantification tool.

Once a calculation is complete, the tool produces a detailed report with pre- and post-technology adoption comparisons. The report also informs the user on a number of variables. For example, how much energy storage would be needed to provide a certain operational benefit and what the resulting increase or decrease in emissions would be.

"With insights from the tool, utilities, policy makers, and companies can see the impacts, for example, of shifting energy use to a different time of day or of adopting additional renewable energy resources," said Studarus.

Emissions impacts can vary

Sometimes the results are counterintuitive. The tool can also uncover unintended or unanticipated results. For example, incorporation of coordinated electric vehicle charging in the Northeast would reduce sulfur dioxide—an indirect greenhouse gas—emissions by about 2.5 percent. But in California, the exact same level of coordinated charging actually found an estimated increase of 1.5 percent due to differences between the two regions.

Calculations are based on well-established data sources, including EPA's AVERT, or Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool, which maps hourly emissions benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs; solar data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and demand response models from the Brattle Group.

The tool is designed to be as transparent as possible in terms of the underlying data and algorithms so users can clearly understand how outcomes from scenarios were calculated.

"This is really uncharted territory," added Studarus. "Nobody's done this before, and the diverse utility community needs detailed information when it comes to understanding the impacts of technologies on the environment and the bottom line. A transparent and broadly applicable methodology not only estimates the benefit, it lets folks see more clearly how much faith they should be putting into the numbers."

Get the tool

A prototype of the was demonstrated at the National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change in October. Users can try the Emissions Quantification Tool free of charge at

Explore further

With a smart grid, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could have system benefits

Citation: New tool calculates emissions impacts, energy benefits from smart grid investments (2016, July 15) retrieved 23 September 2019 from
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User comments

Jul 17, 2016
This is exactly what we need. If it includes health effects, we will have no more coal, and will eventually evolve out of natural gas utilization for power.

Jul 17, 2016
We are going to need this tool if we are to successfully replace the huge and nasty nuke plants.


Jul 18, 2016
You are an idiot, George.

Jul 18, 2016
You are an idiot, George.
unanimously a notorious pathological idiot.

Jul 18, 2016
I wonder if it would be useful to run this tool in reverse. I.e. give state legislators the info what they would need to change in order to make the case for busienesses and home owners give a net positive impact.

Reason: states and nations are signing treaties like the Paris Agreement - so they have to show results at some point. With this tool one could find the minimum investment by a state/nation so that incentives for buinsesses/home owners are great enough so that THEY generate these results by themselves.

Aug 03, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Aug 03, 2016
The opinion of "Estevan" is unimportant: He is just another sniper hiding behind a phony name, unable to take responsibility for his adolescent posts.

This tool is important for us to make the better decisions regarding our power systems and the environment, . . our Life Support System..

Aug 03, 2016
With this tool one could find the minimum investment by a state/nation so that incentives for buinsesses/home owners are great enough
that makes a lot of sense, therefore it will be ignored by any politician

but all seriousness aside-
considering most politicians get elected predominantly due to the support given by large amounts of cash through various corporations for the purpose of said politicians favours in office via promises etc, it stands to reason that this will be a tool that is not going to be promoted by larger corporations who already have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo... like: http://www.drexel...nge.ashx

Aug 03, 2016
Gkam - Is that what your parents named you? No? You are an anonymous sniper.

The fact that you STILL have an issue with the anonymity aspect of the comments section reinforces my opinion that you are an idiot.
And I take full responsibility for that opinion. Right or wrong.

Aug 03, 2016
You already know my name and address and the phone number of my wife, If we are to believe you.

Who are YOU?

Why are you so scared to take responsibility for your own words?

Aug 03, 2016
George kamburoff the lying cheating psychopath thinks that posting lies and made-up facts under his real name makes them true.

He thinks that people who post under their real names would be reluctant to expose his lies and fact-fabricating.

What was your rationalization when all those supervisors fired you under their real names because they found out you lied about your education and experience, same as you do here?

Was it the fact that they were only dumb goobers anyway, and knowing who they really were didnt matter?

So why then does it matter here?

You lie and you cheat. It doesnt matter whether anonymous goobers are exposing you or not.

This is called objective analysis, a fundamental scientific concept in case you didnt know.

Aug 03, 2016
Tell us who you are, "otto", so we can tell your mother.

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