The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is a leading independent, non-profit energy R&D organization focused on electricity generation, delivery, and use. Its technology portfolios range from sustainability and decarbonization to nuclear power and smart grid technologies—and pumps.
That is not so surprising. Pumps account for 25 percent of all electricity consumed by industrial electric motors (and more than 50 percent in some pumping-intensive industries). While pumps are a mature and efficient technology, they are often operated inefficiently. Since 2017, EPRI has teamed with Hydraulic Institute to raise awareness of the importance of running pump systems more effectively to lower lifecycle costs and energy consumption.
To learn more about this growing collaboration, we spoke with EPRI’s Lisa (LK) Browning, a principal project manager for customer technologies, and Sara Beaini, program manager for advanced buildings and communities.
Why is EPRI interested in energy savings?
LK Browning: Many of our members consider energy efficiency as a resource, like power generation itself. Let me give you an example. If you are responsible for generating electric power for a certain service area, you may face demand issues on hot summer days when customers might run their air conditioner, washer, dryer, and dishwasher all at the same time. You could build new generating capacity to meet this peak demand, but that can be expensive. Instead, many utilities offer their customers incentives to use less power by switching to more energy-efficient products, and our research looks at those products.
Sara Beaini: Our on Grid-Edge Customer Technologies research program looks at technologies and applications that engage utility customers by giving them options to lower their electricity cost by running equipment during times when rates are lowest or investing in more energy-efficient technologies. This is one way to help balance utility power loads.
How did EPRI become interested in pumps?
Beaini: The Grid-Edge Customer Technologies Program’s research spans space conditioning, water heating, plug loads, and motors and drives, and other technology areas. Each year, we formulate an annual research portfolio that includes topics that are most relevant to our utility members.
In 2017, responding to the needs of our members, we decided to do a deep dive on pumps, under the motors and drives umbrella. We had connected with the Hydraulic Institute in the past and expanded our research activities with them at that point.
So, what was the first project EPRI did with the Hydraulic Institute?
Beaini: We began by doing a series of webcasts to educate our members so they could better engage with their customers about energy savings through pump system optimization. The webinars ranged from pump fundamentals to pump system optimization to improve efficiency. The key take-away was that by taking a holistic approach to your entire system, you could save on equipment and operating costs without having to replace your equipment.
Some utilities have teamed with the Hydraulic Institute to provide incentive programs for customers that buy more efficient pumps. Were there other programs that came out of those webinars?
Beaini: We received one specific request. Most times, we think of pumps in industrial, commercial, and residential applications. But in the West and Midwest, many pumps are used for agricultural irrigation. One utility based in Colorado told us the webinars were really helpful and asked if we could put together a workshop for their customers. So EPRI collaborated with the Hydraulic Institute and the Irrigation Innovation Consortium to develop a hands-on training for farmers who wanted to save money, energy, and water on their pumping systems.
What other things did you do with the Hydraulic Institute?
Beaini: In 2018 and coming up again in June 2022, EPRI holds its Electrification International Conference and Exposition. We invited the Hydraulic Institute to attend in 2018 as many of HI’s members develop technologies that we evaluate and test. The Institute provided information about the latest Department of Energy pump regulations, its own pump labeling program, and training programs that it offers specifically for utilities.
Browning: Also, this past February, we invited the Hydraulic Institute to speak at our Grid-Edge Customer Technologies Program’s advisory committee meeting.
Beaini: Exactly. We do our best to update our members on current trends and the resources and tools that they may find useful for their own incentive programs and that might benefit their customers.
How much attention is EPRI paying to the new Department of Energy pump efficiency regulations?
Beaini: We try to keep on top of these changes. We want to keep our members informed about how the new regulations might impact utility incentive programs to make energy-efficient pumps more affordable for their customers.
Browning: Rebates are driven by the situation in each state. Our research helps inform the utility, but it’s up to each utility to decide whether to implement an efficiency program.
In addition to pumps, what other technologies is EPRI addressing?
Beaini: As an organization, EPRI’s overarching research themes include decarbonization—achieving a low-carbon footprint—in ways that are equitable for everyone, as well as new power technologies, and cybersecurity. We have also launched an initiative, Climate READi, to better plan for a more resilient future in the face of changing weather and more extreme weather events.
How will EPRI continue to collaborate with Hydraulic Institute in the future?
Beaini: We want to continue to look for collaboration opportunities, whether it’s through evaluating emerging technologies or pump systems optimization and other training programs that the Hydraulic Institute has established. We want to engage further to find ways to transfer knowledge. We may also find ways to develop and host workshops for our members together.
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