DOE, EPB, ORNL Begin New Partnership

Oct. 26, 2014
Chattanooga’s Smart Grid to be Test Bed for New Energy Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Oak Ridge National Laboratory and EPB have announced the beginning of a partnership that will use Chattanooga’s smart grid as a living laboratory for testing new energy technologies.

Under the new agreement with EPB and DOE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory will apply its technical expertise in such areas as data analytics, control systems, cybersecurity and high-performance computer modeling to test new smart grid technologies and processes on the electric grid in Chattanooga, allowing EPB to further capitalize on its smart grid investment. Partially funded with $111.5 million in Recovery Act stimulus funds awarded by the Energy Department, EPB has made its distribution system more robust while improving operations with the deployment of smart grid technologies, which allow EPB to provide continued reliable electric service and respond more effectively to severe weather events.

“Our electric grid must deliver reliable, affordable, and clean electricity to consumers,” said Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. “This new partnership will help improve our understanding of grid operations in valuable, new ways and represents another important step in moving the nation closer to the grid of the future.”

In addition to traditional laboratory simulation, testing applied science on Chattanooga’s fully operational smart grid will provide real-world understanding about the performance and ideal environments for emerging applications. Advanced analytics and data management will help EPB better leverage the data from its system’s advanced sensors to improve operations. Researchers plan to examine the benefits of advanced controls and microgrids, which have the potential for widespread deployment in distributed generation, storage and renewable systems. The collaborators also expect to use high performance computing for modeling and simulation to further broaden understanding of the system’s operations.

“Chattanooga’s smart grid is ideally suited to be a live extension of ORNL’s extensive research system,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “The progressive nature of EPB allows for opportunities to demonstrate ORNL’s emerging technologies in Chattanooga’s real-world environment.”

Additionally, ORNL staff scientists can participate as “Engineering Scholars in Residence” to work on collaborative research projects.

The first project for the Engineering Scholars in Residence will be to write a comprehensive case study about the EPB network. This study can be used as a road map for other utilities with interest in building similar systems as well as a guide for technology development and testing.

“We find that when you put smart people together, they get even smarter. I look forward to seeing what happens when EPB’s engineering team is paired with scientists from ORNL,” said Harold DePriest, EPB’s President and CEO.

The organizations will also work together to develop strict protocols for protecting EPB customer privacy and data, ensuring that future testing of technologies does not negatively interfere with EPB’s customers’ experience.

The new partnership was formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at EPB’s headquarters today.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

The Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability drives electric grid modernization and resiliency in the energy infrastructure.

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