Travel Notes: Washington DC, Feb 26-29, 1996
1. Technology Partnering Conference
This 1 1/2 day event sponsored by McGraw-Hill’s Federal Technology Report., featured top management speakers from DOD, NASA, NIST, DOE and Congress, discussing the historical background and major new developments in the federal government’s role and approach to working with industry.
The bipartisan trend that had been developing for many years to increase links between federal labs and agencies and private industry was suddenly reversed by the new Republican Congress, as a part of its drive to reduce spending. Robert Walker, head of the House Science & Technology Committee (who is retiring the end of this year) attacks what he calls “corporate welfare”, but what others view as vital programs to put federal technology into the hands of industry so it can be successfully commercialized.
Congress has proposed to zero out the large and well-regarded multi-agency programs such as the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) run by NIST and the Technology Reinvestment Program (TRP) run by ARPA/DOD. The Clinton administration, however, is standing firm in its support, particularly for ATP. TRP will morph into the “Dual Use Applications Program”, explicitly focused on the needs of DOD, and under the Office of Defense Research and Engineering instead of ARPA.
The terminology is shifting from “technology transfer” to “Technology Partnering” and government agencies like DOE, NASA and DOD are to focus entirely on their own specific objectives. The rationale for partnering is that these agencies need industry to commercialize the technology they’ve developed, so they can then purchase and use it more cost effectively in the accomplishment of their own respective missions.
For example: DOD is the world’s largest customer for “low-rate production”, which says they have a strong interest in having industries that are highly capable at “agile manufacturing”, which coincidentally is the trend in the competitive world economy. Thus benefits flow both ways.
One of the risks of the budget cuts is that the Labs may become viewed as “unreliable” business partners if they have to curtail or reduce their funding of CRADAs, a reputation they’ve been struggling with some success to overcome.
One particularly interesting presentation was by John McTague, VP of Technical Affairs at Ford Motor Co. and advisor to DOE. He pointed out the well known behavior of large organizations to become bureaucratic and process/rulemaking oriented — when they lose track of what they’re supposed to be producing, or don’t have competitors. (Sound familiar?) DOE is attempting to reverse this trend, especially at the Labs, but old habits are hard to change, as are all the rules and procedures that have accumulated (many thanks to Congress).
As is often the case, networking during the breaks was particularly fruitful. Among other contacts, I’ll have more to report soon on a nifty new program between Dayton Power & Light and the Air Force’s Wright Lab to help DP&L’s major customers.
Also, thanks to a coincidental encounter, I arranged to meet later in the week with the DC office of the National Tech Transfer Center (NTTC), which has responsibility for tech transfer for the Ballistic Missle Defense Organization (BMDO), a separate DOD branch which has the huge technology repository of the entire SDI (Starwars) effort. They have taken a particular interest in reaching out to electric utilities, and UFTO may be in the right place at just the right time. More on this at a later date–please don’t tell anyone about it just yet.
I’ll be getting a copy of the conference proceedings, with all the papers and presentations. I’ll make additional information available to UFTO members on request.
2. DOE — Fossil Energy (FE) Patricia Godley, Assistant Secretary
The reorganization to a “lines-of-business” structure that has been in the works for over 2 years is to go into effect in April, if Congress approves. Cross-cutting teams will address advanced research, communications, and environment, health and safety.
I met with Victor Der (301-903-2700), who is proposed to head the “Power” business,and who is in very much a learning mode about the implications of utility industry restructuring for new fossil capacity additions and for potential changes in the Federal role in fossil energy more generally.
At the DOE level, as part of the ongoing effort to reinvent the agency, four strategic alignment areas have been defined: National Security (nuclear materials), Environment, Energy, and Administration. “Energy” is to be overseen by the “Energy Resources Board” headed by Kyle Simpson who reports to Charles Curtis, and including Fossil, Energy Efficiency, the Energy Information Administration, and with Energy Research represented on the Board.
The FE domestically is focused heavily on the commercialization of the Clean Coal technology, and internationally on helping to increase volumes and lower costs for “appropriate” technology to help US firms export. Fossil O&M is not addressed in the program , except as it underlies many of the development goals for new technology.
Fuel Cells continues to be a major program area.
Contacts are Charlie Pax (301-903-2832) or Ed Beyma (301-903-2828.)
FE is responsible for the high temperature technologies (PEM work is handled in the Office of Transportation Technologies), and the work is administered from Morgantown Energy Technology Center (METC). Mark Williams is the Product Manager for Fuel Cells (304-285-4747). (Incidentally, there are plans to merge the 3 FE Tech Centers into a single “Federal Energy Institute”. Details yet forthcoming.)
– Phosphoric Acid (PA): DOD is providing partial cost rebates for the installation of ONSI 200kw units. Lots of people are in line for it. Other PA players include H Power and Fuel Cell Corp. of America, which bought the Westinghouse design. This technology is getting users familar with fuel cells, with operational availability over 95%.
– PEM: Conventional wisdom is that the low temperature and relatively lower efficiency (using natural gas) makes this uncompetitive for stationary power generation (and cogenerations) applications, however it’s high current densities and the possibility of earlier mass production may throw that view into contention for smaller units.
– Molten Carbonate — DOE is supporting work by ERC and MC Power.
– Solid Oxide–DOE is supporting only the Westinghouse tubular design, and Southern California Edison is testing a 25 kw “logistic” unit for the DOD at its Fuel Cell Test Center (“logistic” means with diesel and jetfuel.) Westinghouse will do a 100kw unit with utilities in the Netherlands soon. DOE has no planar SO program (Congress “picked a winner”?), though several smaller firms are doing work on this.
– In conjunction with the IEEE Power Engineering Society, DOE is sponsoring a series of regional Fuel Cell Technology Forums. Proceedings available (May ’95, Boston; Nov ’95, Santa Clara CA; Nov ’96 Houston ) Local host utility involvement is welcomed. Contact Sam Biondo, (301-903-5910)
FE Communications is headed by Bob Porter (202)586-6503. FE published about 150 new “Fact Sheets” last year, and currently is updating and adding to them. These will all appear on FE’s Internet WWW page. Later this year, information will be added on all 600 active R&D projects, along with full text of technical reports.
There is also a “Fax-on-Demand” service (call 202-586-4300), and a less well-known “Fax-Out” service, which sends announcements and news on chosen topics to whoever is on the list.
3. DOE/EE — Office of Utility Technologies (OUT)
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EE), headed by Assistant Secretary Christine Irvin, has four major program areas: Utility (OUT), Transportation (OTT), Building (OBT), and Industrial (OIT).
Karl Rabago left on March 1 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for OUT, and Allan Hoffman, his associate, is currently acting in that capacity.
Generally, OUT is downsizing and restructuring, essentially eliminating the “Office” layer of management (though some titles remain), and dealing with major budget cuts. Initiatives to reorganize and rationalize the division names and missions are no longer at the fore. The mood is one of considerable uncertainty. The divisions of OUT are Wind, Hydro & Ocean; Geothermal; Photovoltaics; Solar Thermal and Biomass Power; Utility Systems, and Advanced Utility Concepts.
Photovoltaics Division, Jim Rannels, 202-586-1721
There are some noteworthy developments in the solar PV.
– The Enron-Amoco-Solarex project in to build a 3+ MW solar PV plant in Hawaii is moving forward, with the building of a new factory in Virginia to make the cells.
– C-Star, Las Vegas NV, set up by DOE and the state of Nevada, and headed by Rose Mckinney-James, is reviewing 5 major bids to solar install projects at the Nevada Test Site. Plans call for as much as 500 MW of capacity of a number of diverse solar technologies.
– Cells and modules are getting cheaper all the time, with the current emphasis on new thin fim technology and mass production. Expect local home supply stores to be selling modules with integral inverters that can plug right into the household circuit, and slow or reverse the meter. Utilities better be planning how they’re going to respond.
– United Solar, Troy MI, will put PV roofing shingles on the market in about one year. These will be featured along with many other innovations in the Atlanta Energy Showcase House, to coincide with the Olympics. Oak Ridge has the lead — contact Pat Love at 423-576-7942.
– Also at the Olympics, Georgia Tech and Georgia Power are putting in a major installation of PV panels on a 100 ft. high stadium roof. Expect very high profile nationally and internationally, with TV camera views from the blimp. This might well result in a resurgence of interest and inquiries about solar which utilities should consider preparing for–and possibly taking advantage of. Utilities would do well to make a conscious decision about this, and not get caught off guard.
– The Utility PV Group (UPVG), with 86 utility members, is a formally constituted independent organization set up 4 years ago with DOE’s help at the request of a small group of utilities. It serves as a major forum for program development and interactions among utilities, PV developers and DOE. (Most but not all UFTO members are in UPVG. For $2000/year, it would seem a very cost-effective way to keep abreast of new developments.)
Utility Systems Division, Robert Brewer (202-586-2828)
This group handles T&D, EMF and district heating and cooling. Budget cuts have zeroed out the T&D program entirely, and with the new emphasis on renewables, they are looking for ways to contribute in that arena.
The work at Oak Ridge on “High-Phase Order” Transmission was completed and published — found to be a valid approach. A commercial demonstration has been operational in upstate NY since 1992. A 1.5 mile three phase circuit was converted to six-phase, and offered a 73% increase in line capacity.
Real Time control studies are continuing, in particular the wide-area measurement work at PNNL with BPA and WAPA. The idea is tovalidate power system computer models so they can be relied upon to operate the transmission system closer to the margin.
Oak Ridge has developed a new advanced Resonant Snubber Inverterwith considerably improved part load performance. (Inverter development had been focused on HVDC, but now the effort is shifted to lower voltages.) While part load performance is less of an issue in many applications, it can be quite significant in solar and electric vehicles, where the system operates at part load much of the time. Adjustable speed drives may also benefit from this technology.The ORNL inverter is 80% efficient at low speeds and 98% at high speeds, vs. more typical performance of 60-70% and 94%. The device is much smaller and should be cheaper than conventional inverters and have much reduced waveform distortion and interference. Jason Lai is the inventor of this “resonant snubber” inverter. Contact Frank Juan 423-576-8540.
Sandia has looked at inverters that have failed in use, and DOE is continuing to support the work at PNNL on the multi input inverter, which interestingly was first developed for MHD.
ORNL also has just completed a study of “Electric Power Ancillary Services” (e.g. voltage and frequency control, spinning reserve, reactive power, etc.), examining who will provide these services in a restructured industry and how they will be priced. Brendon Kirby and Eric Hirst have a new report published Feb ’96 (ORNL/CON-426. To request a copy call Ethel at 423-576-0071.)
Interestingly, the work on Distributed Utilities (DU) was never a line item in the DOE budget, and was done largely with internal lab directed funds at NREL and PNNL. DOE has traditionally emphasized generation and supply, and not the overall “system”.
In T&D asset management, DOE (and Oak Ridge) take the position that the industry (utilities, vendors, EPRI) have the responsibility for near term real-time Operations & Maintenance improvements and techniques, and that DOE should take the broader long-term view. We encountered this idea at ORNL some time back, and discussed their “understand the basic physics and chemistry first” approach vs. a more pragmatic phenomenological approach (i.e., look at field data and use AI technniques, etc.)
4. Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT)
Denise Swink, Deputy Assistant Secretary, 202-586-9232
OIT has a wide ranging series of programs to support the development of efficient industrial technologies and process systems, to help U.S. industrial productivity and competitiveness. OIT funds R&D at the national labs, universities and industry in bioprocessing, catalysis, separations (membranes), sensors, CFCC’s, combustion, materials, cogeneration, and solar industrial technology, and in processes for each of the industries listed below. This technical work forms the basis of a vigorous outreach through “partnering” programs. Utilities could be very effective in bringing these resources to the attention of their industrial customers. Contact Marsha Quinn, 202-586-2097, Director, Technology Access
– Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse: 1-800-DOE-EREC
– Internet: http://www.eren.doe/industry/
– To receive the quarterly newsletter “Benefits and Breakthroughs”, contact Nicki Malenfant, NREL, 303-275-3632. The first (Summer ’95) issue gives a good overview of programs.
– “Impacts” (October ’95 ) catalogs what is available from the results of OIT funded projects, and there are also a new series of product sheets called “Bottom Line”.
Industries of the Future Program focuses on seven industries where technology can yield the biggest returns: Petroleum refining, chemicals, pulp and paper, steel, aluminum, foundries and glass. It brings together the technical resources of all the national labs in what is called a “virtual lab” concept, and works with those industries to develop “vision” statements, and establishes plans to solve their important problems and opportunities.
Contacts: Kurt Sisson, Acting Director 202-586-0139
Bruce Cranford, Chemicals 202-586 -9496 Tom Foust, Pulp & Paper 202-586 -0198
Douglas Kaempf, Metal Casting 202-586 -5264 Susanne Leonard, Glass 202-586-6108
Matt McMonigle, Aluminum 202-586 -2082 Dan Wiley, Refineries 202-586 -2099
The Motor Challenge Program has enrolled over a thousand industrial partners, who get easy access to product and system information and technical resources, such as fact sheets, “Motor Master” software, conferences and technical assistance.
Contact Paul Scheiling, 202-586-7234, or call the Hotline 1-800-631-3832.
Climate Wise helps U.S. industry partners reduce emissions while increasing profitability. This is a voluntary program paralleling the Climate Challenge program which many utilities participate. Members agree to come up with plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Firms like AT&T, Coors, DuPont, GM, and Weyerhauser have already signed up. Regional workshops have led to the formation of local area groups. Some funding may be available for smaller companies. Contact Marsha Quinn, 202-586-2097.
NICE3 (National Industrial Competiveness through Energy, Environment and Economics) awards grants to teams of state agencies and local industry to support demonstration of technologies that reduce energy consumption and pollution.
Contact Alan Schroeder, 202-586-1641
Industrial Assessment Centers (formerly Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Centers) at 30 universities around the country provide free audits and waste assessment services to small and medium industrial companies. This program has been in place for nearly 20 years, providing experience for engineering students as well. Recently ten IAC-State Office partnerships were awarded to encourage local industrial community links.
Contact Chuck Glaser, 202-586-1298 or Rolf Butters, 202-586-0984
International Development helps with the DOE trade missions, and is involved in work with China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Mexico and the Ukraine, to introduce appropriate and more efficient industrial technologies into these fast growing economies as their energy demands expand. Contact Peter Salmon-Cox, 202-586-2380