The Energy Act of 2020, Grid Modernization – A First Look

By January 19, 2021 No Comments

A first look at Title VIII Grid Modernization from the 533-page Energy Act of 2020.

The 533-page Energy Act of 2020 is chock full of provisions that cover almost every aspect of the energy transition, including R&D, development and commercial applications. A first, important step is laying out areas of focus, developing programs, coordination and all-important funding.[1] The Act includes authorization of $35.2 billion in funding over the next 10 years. Still, most agree that more funding will be needed to reach decarbonization goals.[2] It will take a while to determine the immediate and long-range impacts. At first glance, here are a few nuggets for utility analytics practitioners to consider from Title VIII Grid Modernization (total authorization for VIII is $2.2 billion):

Advanced technologies demonstration projects

Regional funding will be available for demonstration projects to prove out “power grid sensing, communications, analysis, power flow control, visualization, distribution automation, industrial control systems, dynamic line rating systems, grid redesign and integration of distributed energy resources.”

Some of these technologies are mature. However, with electrification and increasing penetration of distributed energy resources, technologies must work together in new ways. A lot depends, too, on regional characteristics. Regional demonstration projects will help to de-risk at-scale utility initiatives. In addition, projects will provide training data for machine learning and help to improve models, if done properly.

Smart grid modeling, visualization, architecture and controls

To improve situational awareness on the grid, the Act calls for “development of computational tools and technologies to improve sensing, monitoring, and visualization of the electric grid for real-time situational awareness and decision support tools that enable improved operation of the power system” for utilities and others. The priorities are cyber and physical situational awareness – think firewall firmware attacks, storms and wildfires.

The good news for analytics practitioners is there will be new tools for visualizing data from advanced measuring and monitoring technologies, such as phasor units and “advanced metering.” Many tools are currently on the market for visualizing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) data; these will likely be used for advanced non-revenue metering.

There also is a plan to advance the use of analytics for operations and controls. If all goes well, analytics teams can have access to new ways of using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine intelligence (MI) to improve load forecasting, power flow modeling, equipment failure prediction, resource optimization and risk analysis. This may involve partnerships between utilities and national labs (see This is what an analytics partnership looks like: Avista and PPL).

Grid integration, research and development – electric vehicles (EVs)

As part of grid modernization, the Act calls for a report and recommendations on the integration of electric vehicles to the grid. The report, to be refreshed every three years, will cover use of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) for grid services, cybersecurity considerations, forecasting charging patterns, requirements for additional distribution infrastructure or alternatives, smart charging, and, very importantly, standards. National labs will provide testing capabilities.

Austin Energy was an early investigator of V2G applications (see Austin Energy and others moving closer to vehicle to Grid). There is still a lot of skepticism about how soon the grid and EVs will be ready for bidirectional EVs. This is a perfect time for to explore this technology. This type of study is likely to help in the development of analytics tools and methodologies for V2G planning and operations.

Title VIII outlines other grid modernization programs which have elements of interest to analytics practitioners. The program for integrating renewables includes forecasting. Open-source tools are mentioned in a distribution planning program. One program provides grants for technology demonstration and forecasting the integration of renewables. Not to mention other titles in the Act – efficiency, renewables and energy storage, nuclear, carbon management, carbon removal, industrial and manufacturing technologies and critical materials.


[1] The upcoming reconciliation process will establish the funding levels.
[2] While the amount appears to be a lot, it is unclear whether the funding will increase current budgets or consolidate funding from other government entities.