ARPA-E: Reimagining the U.S. Electric Grid

January 15, 2016

ARPA-E: Reimagining the U.S. Electric Grid 

The aging U.S. electric grid is comprised of more than 300,000 miles of electric transmission lines that take electricity from power plants to transformers and finally, into homes and businesses. More than 30% of the electric grid's transmission lines, transformers and other hardware are approaching or past the end of their life cycle. About 10% of electricity produced in U.S. power plants never reaches potential users because it’s lost during transmission, and power outages and blackouts. This loss of energy costs businesses and consumers nearly $80 billion dollars a year.

Historically, the electric grid was designed to deliver power one-directionally from large generation facilities to consumers. Several emerging trends, including the rapid growth in renewable generation and greater emphasis on improving grid efficiency and resiliency, are leading to a critical need to modernize the way electricity is delivered from suppliers to consumers. Specifically, modernizing the electric grid's hardware and software could help reduce peak power demand, increase the use of renewable energy, save consumers money on their power bills and reduce total energy consumption – among many other notable benefits.  

Through our transformational projects, ARPA-E is reimagining the outdated U.S. electrical grid to create a safe and resilient infrastructure capable of powering our future. 

This video highlights three ARPA-E-funded approaches to improving the electric grid's flexibility: topology control software from Boston University that optimizes power flow, gas tube switches from General Electric that provide efficient power conversion, and flow batteries from Harvard University that offer grid-scale energy storage options. 


To followup these approaches, ARPA-E continues to invest in projects that focus on improving the electric grid. Over the last two months, ARPA-E has announced 19 new electric grid focused projects: 


On December 11, ARPA-E announced $33 million in funding for 12 innovative projects as part of the Network Optimized Distributed Energy Systems (NODES) program. NODES aims to create a new approach to management of the two-way flow of power to and from homes and businesses that consume and deliver electricity back to the grid. NODES project teams will develop technologies that coordinate load and generation on the grid to create a virtual energy storage system. Explore all 12 NODES projects on the ARPA-E website. 

GRID DATAOn January 15, DOE announced $11 million in funding for seven transformational projects as part of ARPA-E’s newest program, Generating Realistic Information for the Development of Distribution and Transmission Algorithms (GRID DATA). GRID DATA will fund the development of large-scale, realistic, validated and open-access power system network models. These models will have the detail required to allow the successful development and testing of transformational power system optimization and control algorithms, including new Optimal Power Flow (OPF) algorithms. 

Learn about all seven of the new GRID DATA projects on the ARPA-E website.  

Explore ARPA-E’s entire grid project portfolio HERE