sempra energy
Image credit: Sempra Energy

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has partnered with Sempra Energy to research and develop technologies capable of advancing future net-zero energy systems.

As part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed, the two parties will research and develop innovative solutions that can help reduce carbon emissions from power generation, transmission, distribution and usage. The collaboration aims to enhance innovation within the energy sector and help stakeholders to address growing energy demand whilst addressing environmental sustainability.

Sempra Energy and NREL will:

  • Advance artificial intelligence to scale solutions across the US and enable cities to reach clean energy goals;
  • Integrate low-carbon fuel solutions, including hydrogen, renewable natural gas, carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration, and fuel cells;
  • Explore innovative solutions towards 100% renewable energy communities, implementing smart and enhanced controls, integration and operational capabilities as a blueprint for expansion;
  • Enhance electric grids with technology that upgrades the infrastructure with a focus on reliability, connectivity and security; and
  • Promote viable net-zero solutions that are delivered with equity and widespread community access.

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Lisa Alexander, senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer for Sempra Energy, said: “To achieve global carbon-neutrality, energy systems will need to transform dramatically over the coming decades. Our partnership with NREL drives forward a vision to advance the energy systems of the future by focusing on innovation and resiliency.

“New investment and innovative partnerships are critical to developing solutions that will manifest a global energy transition while promoting economic growth and prosperity.”

Doug Arent, executive director for strategic public-private partnerships at NREL, adds: “Building on our strong history of collaboration, we are excited to accelerate our work with Sempra to advance clean energy solutions.

“Researching key synergies across power, low carbon fuels and industrial sectors are expected to provide critical innovations toward realizing a low carbon, equitable, affordable, secure and reliable energy economy.”

The two parties have over the past 10 years collaborated on smart grids and renewable energy solutions including projects focusing on how to simplify the integration of grid networks with microgrids.

In 2013, Sempra Energy’s subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) and NREL teamed up to establish the nation’s first utility-owned community microgrid in Borrego Springs, California. The microgrid comprises a 26MW solar plant, two battery storage systems, two generators, and an ultracapacitor to provide consistent power to the remote desert town during emergencies and planned outages on the larger grid.

In 2017, Sempra Energy’s subsidiary Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and NREL created the nation’s first carbon-free, power-to-gas pilot-system. The technology takes excess electricity and converts it to hydrogen, which can be used, stored, or combined with carbon dioxide and fed to a bioreactor to produce renewable natural gas.

Today, Sempra Energy, SoCalGas and SDG&E are exploring the decarbonisation of regional and industrial hubs, or industrial clusters, to mitigate carbon emissions from industrial processes – such as manufacturing, steel and chemicals – that cannot be electrified.