Johns Hopkins researchers spearhead global effort for 100% renewable energy grids

The Ralph O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute (ROSEI) has partnered with global collaborators to launch a centre dedicated to advancing the transition to 100% renewable energy in power grids. Known as EPICS (Electric Power Innovation for a Carbon-free Society), this initiative brings together experts from academia and industry in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. EPICS has secured five years of funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Global Centres Competition Awards. Leading their respective countries’ efforts are Imperial College London (UK) and the University of Melbourne (Australia).

“I really do believe that having people from different backgrounds is the only way to create a power grid run solely on renewable energy because you have to consider so many different factors.”

Ben Hobbs Led by ROSEI core researcher Ben Hobbs , a professor of environmental management whose research focuses on using analysis and economics to improve electric utility planning, operations, and policy, EPICS aims to become a global scientific leader in renewable energy integration.

“Through the EPICS centre, we hope to develop innovative computing, economics, engineering, and policy solutions for transitioning towards a 100% renewable energy power grid,” said Hobbs, who co-directs EPICS alongside Yury Dvorkin , an associate professor in the departments of Civil and System Engineering and Electrical Computer and Engineering and a member of ROSEI. “This transition is critical both for decarbonising the global electric power sector, which is responsible for nearly half of global carbon emissions, and for supporting climate-critical decarbonisation of other economic sectors and energy end uses.”

EPICS will leverage cutting-edge computer technology to create adaptable decision-making tools for managing volatile renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It aims to integrate wind, solar, and storage resources into the grid by mastering the operation of numerous inverters linking these resources and the grid. The initiative will establish economic analysis principles specific to designing and maintaining 100% renewable power grids and apply the knowledge gained to formulate strategies for achieving net-zero global power grids and use them to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions from other economic sectors, including transportation and buildings

“Transitioning to 100% renewable power grids presents us with many complex challenges,” Hobbs said. “In EPICS, we have assembled the top experts and resources necessary to develop these innovative solutions.”

EPICS has strategically partnered directly with three major global organisations that the researchers already have close ties with: Global Power System Transformation Consortium (G-PST), Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG) and Future Power Markets Forum (FPMF).

Hobbs also emphasises that EPICS has an international focus, engaging researchers not only in the UK and Australia, but also affiliates in Ireland, Canada, and Denmark. This ensures that the research will have global impact, which is crucial since climate change cannot be arrested by one or a few countries working alone. For example, the U.S. utilises a different pricing system for energy than the UK, European Union, and Australia, as well as having a different set of politico-economic factors, making expertise from different countries invaluable. The center’s international contingents are led by Mark O’Malley , the Leverhulme Professor of Power Systems at Imperial College London, and Pierluigi Mancarella , the chair of Electrical Power Systems at the University of Melbourne.

“These countries can collaborate and lead the world in dealing with common challenges, such as integrating grid-scale long-duration energy storage and offshore wind power resources, as well as addressing climate-induced hazards,” Hobbs said. “These are not just problems here in the United States; they’re global ones, so we need to capitalise on shared knowledge and experience so everyone can deal with common challenges.”

“I really do believe that having people from different backgrounds is the only way to create a power grid run solely on renewable energy because you have to consider so many different factors,” Hobbs said. “ROSEI’s networks will help us recruit students and faculty collaborators that share our enthusiasm for finding these solutions.”

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