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NETL’s strategic systems analysis and engineering researchers strive to address the challenges of meeting the often-competing energy goals of maximizing profits, minimizing costs and addressing market and policy drivers while also meeting environmental and technical constraints.
NETL Strategic Systems Analysis and Engineering Researchers Achieve Successes in 2021

The discovery, design and operation of modern energy systems requires systematic decision-making techniques for the often-competing goals of maximizing profits, minimizing costs and addressing market and policy drivers while also meeting environmental and technical constraints. NETL’s strategic systems analysis and engineering (SSAE) researchers strive to address these challenges by developing advanced models that combine a wide variety of research disciplines — tools that are providing critical information to help meet clean energy goals of calling for net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Throughout 2021, SSAE research resulted in several notable accomplishments, including updates to open-source systems that optimize the nation’s power plant operations in pursuit of a clean energy sector, along with several recognitions awarded to members of various research teams for their work.

A sampling of the SSAE successes follows.

  • NETL, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, developed an open-source computer model to quantify baseline life-cycle impacts of electricity consumption in the U.S. The tool allows for more robust and consistent analyses to inform decision-makers and stakeholders. The model is transparent and multifunctional for users in the power generation sector to conduct in-depth analyses of domestic electricity use and its effects.
  • An NETL study shed light on the near-collapse of the electrical grid in Texas last winter, which occurred during an unusually severe winter storm. The study validates the importance of NETL’s work and the value of the recommendations it issues. The February 2021 storm brought the grid, operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), precariously close to a complete blackout. The report, “2020 Summer Resource Adequacy in the ERCOT Region,” included analysis of simulation studies of the ERCOT system and findings that noted anticipated reserve margins of the power system were below levels set by ERCOT leadership.
  • Several NETL researchers were named recipients of the Secretary’s Honor Award, the highest internal, non-monetary recognition that U.S. Department of Energy employees and contractors can receive for their service and contributions to the department’s mission and to the nation. A broad team that included SSAE researcher Greg Hackett was recognized for their considerable efforts to address the technical feasibility, economic potential and license considerations necessary to demonstrate hydrogen generation technology at two operating nuclear reactors.
  • NETL’s Institute for the Design of Advanced Energy Systems (IDAES) Integrated Platform expanded its capabilities to focus on the development of innovative integrated energy systems to support widespread decarbonization. Building on the capabilities of IDAES, NETL initiated a new project through the Grid Modernization Lab Consortium (GMLC) to create the Design Integration and Synthesis Platform to Advance Tightly Coupled Hybrid Energy Systems, (DISPATCHES) to identify and optimize integrated energy systems for operation within the bulk power system via energy market signals. Within IDAES, Stephen E. Zitney, Ph.D. led the development of a new dynamic power plant modeling library that will lead to more efficient and flexible power plants.
  • NETL researchers connected with industries and decision-makers around the world looking to embrace the latest technologies and practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during CERAWeek 2021. CERAWeek is an annual energy conference organized by the information and insights company IHS Markit that brings together 5,000 global industry leaders and policymakers from more than 85 countries to discuss a range of energy-related topics. This year’s theme, “The New Map: Energy, Climate and Charting the Future,” focused on how the global energy ecosystem is being remodeled by powerful agents of change.
  • This year, NETL’s Ray Boswell was among several of the Lab’s researchers recognized by the journal PLOS Biology among the top 2% of scientists in the world based on their career-long citation impact up until the end of 2019. 
  • NETL researchers, in partnership with industrial research institutes, universities and other organizations, co-authored a comprehensive white paper titled, “Toward Improved Guidelines for Cost Evaluation of Carbon Capture and Storage.” The paper updated costing guidelines for carbon capture and storage technologies, which are crucial to combatting climate change and achieving a clean energy sector.
  • NETL’s Energy Markets Analysis team, which conducts comprehensive studies of energy grids throughout the country and provides information that can aid decision-makers, continues to be a valuable asset as the U.S. undergoes great changes in electricity use. For example, SSAE researchers completed a study with Leonardo Technologies that was crucial in providing the Wyoming Public Service Commission with information it needed to require the consideration of carbon capture technologies in future utility integrated resource plans.

By combining the fundamental disciplines of mathematics, economics, finance, operations research, chemical engineering, and computer science with other fields of research, SSAE researchers work to develop the models and methodologies to overcome the nation’s greatest energy and economic challenges while also striving for environmental sustainability.

Additional NETL achievements and success stories throughout the year can be accessed here. For more information about activities and projects undertaken by SSAE researchers, check out the SSAE Newsletter, a monthly publication.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.