Washington, DC, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- February 16, 2012 - A smart grid energy innovation hub, or a number of regional hubs, is proposed for establishment in the United States during 2013, with initial funding of $20 million.

The proposed Electricity Systems Hub, which is outlined in the Department of Energy’s FY 2013 Congressional Budget Request, will address the critical issues and barriers associated with integrating, coordinating, and facilitating the numerous changes that are happening on the distribution and transmission systems.

One critical segment of the grid that has not been sufficiently addressed is the “seam” between transmission and distribution which is physically manifested as distribution substations. The main focus of the Electricity Systems Hub will be this nexus of power flows, information flows, markets, and regulations.

Potential research topics include advanced devices, components, software, and systems that will provide the future power grid with the ability to expand its capability, to sense its own conditions, and to reconfigure as necessary to achieve resiliency. Solutions that enable safe two way power flows, securely integrate information technology with power controls, and optimize operational paradigms will be emphasized. Exploration of utility business models, improved system understanding, and the cultivation of multidisciplinary thought leaders can help establish an electricity services economy. Additionally, policy and market analyses can help reduce barriers to innovation and system transformation.

The DOE will have an oversight role in the Hub. As grid integration is a regional and local issue, with wide heterogeneity around the nation, a single hub may not be as effective given the diversity of issues (e.g. technology, market, institutional), and two to three regional hubs may be supported to address broad grid challenges.

The Hub approach is aimed to bring together a broad, multidisciplinary group of experts covering applied science, technology, economics, and policy to accelerate the development and commercialization of key technologies. Three such hubs have been established since 2010, with a fourth, focusing on advanced batteries and energy storage, to be launched this year.

Other elements of the 2013 Budget Request include a reduction in funding for smart grid research and development of $5.4 million from $19.3 million during the current year to $14 million in 2013. This in due to reduced funding for microgrid research, and scaled back research into smart charging of electric vehicles, integration of distributed energy resources and standards development, and communication and control technologies.

The DOE also will cease funding power electronics ($3.9 million in FY 2012). This is due to a shift in emphasis from applied research in power electronics for grid-scale applications to focus on current device compositions and foundational research carried out by ARPA-E and the Office of Science.