DURHAM, N.C. – A new $2.44 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will support a Duke University-led initiative to help utilities and wholesale electricity markets improve their efficiency and reliability while reducing emissions and costs, at a time of needed transformations to tackle climate change.

The initiative, A Grid that’s Risk-Aware for Clean Electricity (GRACE), taps the expertise of researchers from academia, industry and government.

“Our goal is to make a meaningful and tangible contribution to the transformation of the U.S. electricity sector into a cleaner and more efficient system,” said Dalia Patiño-Echeverri, Gendell Family Associate Professor of Energy Systems and Public Policy at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who will lead the three-year project.

To achieve that goal, the GRACE team will design an energy system management (EMS) framework that enables U.S. electricity providers to better anticipate and manage uncertainty in the performance of conventional and renewable power generators in their systems. This will help improve the systems’ short-term operational efficiency and guarantee its reliability at the lowest possible environmental and economic cost, Patiño-Echeverri explained.

“Operating under conditions of uncertainty places burdens on any business or enterprise. For electricity system operators, these burdens are compounded by a changing climate, uncertain demand and variable and unpredictable performance of conventional and renewable power generators,” she said.

To help relieve some of these burdens, the GRACE framework will use specially developed algorithms that let energy managers characterize risk considerations for assets within their systems – for instance, how and when weather conditions might affect solar or wind power generation, or when short-term spikes in consumer demand might require redirecting available power supplies, tapping reserves or bringing new resources on line.

The framework will be ready for integration into industry practice by summer 2023, she said.

Patiño-Echeverri's co-principal investigators on the GRACE team include David Brown, associate professor of business administration at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business; Antonio Conejo, professor of integrated systems engineering and electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State University; Jordan Kern, assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Assets at North Carolina State University; and Ali Daraeepour, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment.

Other co-principal investigators are Pavel Etingov, staff research engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); Veronica Adetola, chief research scientist in the Electricity Infrastructure and Buildings Division at PNNL; Arnab Bhattacharya, operations research scientist at PNNL; and Hong Chen, senior consultant and project manager at PJM Interconnections LLC, and secretary of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Power & Energy Society’s Technical Council.

Eric Rohlfing, energy executive in residence at the Duke University Energy Initiative, will serve on the GRACE advisory committee, along with Jim Smith, Jack Byrne Distinguished Professor in Decision Science at Dartmouth College, Mark Oliver, manager of short-term planning at Duke Energy, and Charles Rossmann, forecasting and model development manager at Southern Company.