Sempra Energy announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), providing a framework for a joint effort to advance future net-zero energy systems. The MOU, which builds off nearly 10 years of ongoing collaboration, will continue current work researching and developing innovative solutions to help shape a lower-carbon future through technology and applications capable of withstanding increasing energy demand and broad adoption while advancing future innovation.
“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,” said Lisa Alexander, senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer for Sempra Energy. “New investment and innovative partnerships are critical to developing solutions that will manifest a global energy transition while promoting economic growth and prosperity.”
“Building on our strong history of collaboration, we are excited to accelerate our work with Sempra to advance clean energy solutions,” said Doug Arent, executive director for strategic public-private partnerships at NREL. “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.”
Sempra Energy and NREL have been collaborating for nearly a decade on cooperative and multi-year projects exploring the development, access and integration of low-carbon fuels and microgrid technology. In 2013, Sempra Energy’s subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) and NREL joined to establish the nation’s first utility-owned community microgrid in Borrego Springs, Calif., connected to a local 26-megawatt solar field (owned by a third party), two battery storage systems, two generators, and an ultracapacitor. The microgrid, which is being upgraded so that it can operate on 100% clean energy, was designed to provide consistent power flowing 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 partnered to create, validate and integrate 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 (RNG). This innovative technology could provide North America with a large-scale, cost-effective solution for storing excess energy produced from renewable sources. Additionally, Sempra Energy and NREL have coordinated efforts to research the impacts of hydrogen blending in natural gas networks, and studied potential pathways for wholesale market access to hydrogen production facilities.
Under the MOU, which is not legally binding but sets forth a framework for cooperation, Sempra Energy and NREL will coordinate and share objectives focused on:
- Advancing artificial intelligence to scale solutions across the U.S. and enable cities to reach clean energy goals;
- Integrating low-carbon fuel solutions, including hydrogen, renewable natural gas, carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, and fuel cells;
- Exploring innovative solutions towards 100% renewable energy communities, requiring and implementing smart and enhanced controls, integration and operational capabilities as a blueprint for expansion;
- Enhancing electric grids with technology that upgrades the infrastructure with a focus on reliability, connectivity and security; and
- Promoting viable net-zero solutions that are delivered with equity and widespread community access.
In its current work, Sempra Energy and its operating companies, including SoCalGas and SDG&E, are also exploring the decarbonization 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. The companies, in partnership with NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy, are researching integrated solutions that may enable these sectors to achieve significant emissions reductions, while maintaining productivity, creating jobs, and fostering healthier communities.
Sempra Energy looks forward to working with NREL to help decarbonize industries, homes and energy and transportation systems, while continuing to deliver resilient, reliable and sustainable energy in every market it serves and to consumers around the world.
About Sempra Energy
Sempra Energy’s mission is to be North America’s premier energy infrastructure company. The Sempra Energy family of companies has more than 19,000 talented employees who deliver energy with purpose to over 36 million consumers. With more than $66 billion in total assets at the end of 2020, the San Diego-based company is the owner of one of the largest energy networks in North America serving some of the world’s leading economies. The company is helping to advance the global energy transition by enabling the delivery of lower-carbon energy solutions in each market it serves, including California, Texas, Mexico and the LNG export market. Sempra Energy is consistently recognized as a leader in sustainable business practices and for its long-standing commitment to building a high-performing culture including safety and diversity and inclusion. Sempra Energy is the only North American utility sector company included on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and was also named one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” for 2021 by Fortune Magazine.