Overview: In September 2016, Georgia Tech announced the formation of the Energy Policy and Innovation Center, or EPICenter, to advance energy policy and technology innovation in the Southeast. This center will be a low-overhead, efficient organization based out of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute (SEI) and will be distinctively regional, yet nationally relevant. The Center will explore the intersection of policy and technology and draw upon the extensive expertise in the Southeast, including academia, utilities, industry, key national labs, and other public and private stakeholders.
Motivation for a Regional Center: While the U.S. energy system is composed of regions with unique energy needs and opportunities, tremendous potential exists to deepen progress and coordinate action within individual regions. Broader views and approaches for energy innovation are similarly viewed as mission critical, for example by including policy, economic, even social considerations along with conventional technological factors.
Why the Southeast? The region already provides national leadership in efficiency, reliability, and cost due in part to the vertical integration of data, networks and physical resources by regulated utilities across the entire value chain. In June, Georgia Tech helped co-author a whitepaper in which distinguishing features of the energy system in the Southeastern United States were identified as follows:
- The presence of large, vertically-integrated, regulated utilities;
- A comparatively low carbon resource mix that includes leadership and progress in Nuclear Power, Photovoltaics (PV), and Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS);
- Leadership and growth in natural gas for electricity, innovative integration of electricity and natural gas markets, and natural gas infrastructure;
- Pioneering efforts in smart metering and grid modernization;
- One of the largest global concentrations of industrial big data and analytics, that aggregate, analyze, and remotely control major energy infrastructure;
- Energy intensive industry and manufacturing;
- Favorable regional climates for employment, access to capital, and innovative business models.
Mission: This Center will specifically address characteristic resources, challenges, and capabilities with regional expertise, and deliver realistic solutions with maximum impact. This initiative is the first known implementation of a regional partnership to focus on the interdependencies of energy policy and technology toward the pragmatic realization of meaningful, affordable, and market-based carbon reductions.
Key Objectives: The Center will strive to accelerate a diversity of reliable, affordable and increasingly low-carbon energy options in the Southeast. The Center will put a premium on regional contributions that can enhance U.S. energy leadership and competitiveness. The Center will investigate challenges in both power generation and in transportation on a regional basis. Techno-economic, social and policy factors, as well as near and longer term impacts, are within the scope of consideration. Primary objectives include:
- Work Products: The Center will produce and disseminate rigorous, fact-based policy studies that will address southeastern perspectives on global, national and regional energy issues;
- Events: The Center will host conferences, workshops and symposiums on relevant energy issues, serving as a nonpartisan facilitator for academic, business and nongovernmental stakeholders;
- Educational outreach and workforce development: The Center will provide opportunities for learning and information exchange among students, faculty and visiting scholars. It will also support training and workforce development with regional utilities and energy equipment providers, facilitating stakeholder collaboration and public-private energy partnerships.
Funding Model and External Advisory Mechanism: The Center, when fully operational, is targeting a nominal annual budget of $1.5 million. All cash and in-kind support will derive entirely from voluntary contributions of interested parties, and will be directed to a foundation established and overseen by Georgia Tech. Any requests for non-cash support made on behalf of the Center will be non-binding, performed entirely at the discretion of its partners. The Center will establish an external advisory body and invite selected regional representatives to participate. Advisors may be asked to provide recommendations and input on an as-need basis for the selection and review of work products, or for other purposes.
Partners: A variety of strategic entities will be invited to participate in the Center, with the philosophy that a focus on common resources and shared challenges will be most effective in accelerating regional progress and disseminating learning. Stakeholder categories from which partners will be invited include:
- Regional Utilities
- Energy Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
- Financial Institutions
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- National laboratories
- Other research consultants
- Collaborating universities and energy research institutes
Operating Charter: The activities, procedures and ultimately the key deliverables of the Center will be defined by its leadership, led by the director of SEI with input from the external advisory body. The Center itself will be responsible for its daily operational activities including the publication of work products and the coordination of engagement events and activities. The Center is in the process of defining an operational charter including, but not limited to, the following responsibilities:
- Internal organizational structure and operating by-laws;
- Establishment of an external advisory body, including operating guidelines;
- Process for project identification, including advisory input;
- Process for project selection, including open solicitation mechanism;
- Process for interim and final review of work products;
- Educational and outreach events scheduling;
- Partner engagement and contributions, including sustainable funding mechanism;
- External communication, including work product promotion
Updated by the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Tech 1/26/17