Biden Orders Review of Energy, EV Battery Supply Chains

Resilient supply chains will protect the nation from facing shortages of critical products, accelerate U.S. leadership of clean energy technologies.

President Biden has signed an Executive Order calling for an immediate 100-day review across federal agencies to address vulnerabilities in the supply chains of four key products, including large-capacity batteries such as those used in electric vehicles (EVs). The order also calls for a more in-depth one-year review of a broader set of U.S. supply chains, with a focus on the energy sector industrial base among others.

With actions being taken to tackle the climate crisis, there will be a large demand for new energy technologies like EV batteries in the future. By identifying supply chain risks, the United States can meet the president's goal to accelerate U.S. leadership of clean energy technologies.

While the United States is a net-exporter of EVs, it is not a leader in the supply chain associated with electric battery production. The nation can better leverage its sizable lithium reserves and manufacturing know-how to expand domestic battery production.

The 100-day review will identify near-term steps the administration can take with Congress to address vulnerabilities in the supply chains for these critical goods. The other key products under focus for the 100-day review are:

Semiconductors: The United States has always been a leader in semiconductor development. However, over the years, the nation has underinvested in production, while other countries have learned from its example and increased their investments in the industry.
APIs: In recent decades, more than 70% of API production facilitators supplying the United States have moved offshore. This work will complement the ongoing work to secure supply chains needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Critical minerals: These are an essential part of defense and high-tech products. The United States needs to ensure it is not dependent upon foreign sources or single points of failure in times of national emergency.
The broader one-year review includes more energy. It involves:

A focus on six key sectors: These include the energy sector industrial base, the defense industrial base, the public health and biological preparedness industrial base, the information and communications technology (ICT) industrial base, the transportation industrial base, and supply chains for agricultural commodities and food production.
A set of risks for agencies to consider in their assessment of supply chain vulnerabilities: Agencies and departments have been directed to review a variety of risks to supply chains and industrial bases. These reviews must identify critical goods and materials within supply chains, the manufacturing or other capabilities needed to produce those materials, as well as a variety of vulnerabilities created by failure to develop domestic capabilities. Agencies and departments are also directed to identify locations of key manufacturing and production assets, the availability of substitutes or alternative sources for critical goods, the state of workforce skills and identified gaps for all sectors, and the role of transportation systems in supporting supply chains and industrial bases.
Recommendations on actions that should be taken to improve resilience: Agencies are directed to make specific policy recommendations to address risks, as well as proposals for new research and development (R&D) activities.
A sustained commitment to supply chain resilience: The government will commit to a regular, ongoing process of reviewing supply chain resilience, including a quadrennial review process.
Consultation with external stakeholders: The government cannot secure supply chains on its own. It requires partnership and consultation with the American people. The E.O. has directed the administration to consult widely with outside stakeholders, such as those in industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, communities, labor unions, and state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.
The E.O. will build on bipartisan Congressional action and leadership on this issue, and the administration will remain in close touch with Congress to solicit recommendations during the review.

In recent years, American households, workers, and companies have increasingly felt the strain of shortages of essential products. Building resilient supply chains will protect the United States from facing such shortages. It will also facilitate needed investments to maintain America's competitive edge and strengthen U.S. national security. Biden has directed his administration to work with U.S. partners and allies to ensure that they too have strong and resilient supply chains.

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Eaton's power engineering courses, demonstrations and insights are now available on demand

Eaton's online training program, Power in Focus, is now available on demand. This online experience is packed with the education and training needed to power the electrical industry—and your career—forward. Eaton's on-demand portal includes classes with professional development hours from the Registered Continuing Education Program (RCEP). Watch our courses, see Experience Center device demonstrations and expert-led Q&A sessions at any time to learn from the experts who power what matters.

Whether your business is in commercial buildings, healthcare, data centers, electric utilities or industrials, Power in Focus is packed with the education and insights needed to power what matters – advancing the electrical industry and your career.

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Eaton releases Power Xpert SPD for connected surge protection

Eaton has released the Power Xpert SPD, the latest addition to its family of surge protective devices to help protect critical equipment.

The device has advanced monitoring display and communication capabilities in addition to historical surge logging. It's ideal for industrial environments where downtime caused by surge events is unthinkable.

The Power Xpert SPD enables customers to capture and categorize surge events by low, medium and high categories according to IEEE standard C62.41.

The connected solution enables customers to remotely monitor surge data in real time or store events in a log with time and date stamps they can use to predict future surge events or enact proactive maintenance of critical equipment.

The Power Xpert SPD is also designed to ensure the highest level of cybersecurity available to protect against potentially devastating cyberattacks. 

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President Biden's Vision for the Power Sector

President Joe Biden brings a marked shift in U.S. energy policy priorities, with clean energy being central to his plan.
President Joe Biden brings a marked shift in U.S. energy policy priorities, with clean energy being central to his plan. The Biden Plan to "Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future" and "Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice" will launch a national effort aimed at creating millions of jobs, building modern and sustainable infrastructure, and delivering a clean energy future. According to the Biden campaign, the plans are designed to "modernize our nation's electric grid, making it smarter, more resilient, and ready to meet the changing needs of a net-zero greenhouse-gas-emissions economy." I've been asked several times recently what this plan includes, so I spent an entire day sifting through the Biden Plan and removing jargon in an effort to identify its key components. Its key provisions include following:

Infrastructure Investment

To build the next generation of the electric grid, President Biden will leverage existing infrastructure and rights-of-way, along roads and railways, to promote faster and easier permitting. The Biden Administration will also work with utilities to install advanced metering equipment; deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, and upgrade transmission lines to support larger regional electric markets that can distribute renewable energy.

Clean Energy Innovation

The plan calls for infrastructure investments resulting in a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. Specifically, the vision includes a carbon free power sector by 2035.

    • Creation of a new cross-agency Advanced Research Projects Agency on Climate (ARPA-C) to target affordable technologies to drive cost reductions in clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, next generation building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear.
    • Accelerate R&D on battery technology and domestic production capabilities, with a focus on developing the domestic supply chain of batteries for EVs and the grid to complement renewable energy resources.
    • Research investments and tax incentives for carbon capture and sequestration technologies, including lowering the cost of carbon capture retrofits for existing power plants.
    • Accelerate innovation in supply-chain resilience by investing in research to bolster and build critical clean energy supply chains in the U.S., addressing issues like reliance on rare earth minerals.
    • Investments in the national laboratories and high-performance computing capabilities.
    • Appoint FERC commissioners who will drive market reforms, like expanding regional electric markets, integrating renewables and demand-response, and promoting long-term infrastructure planning to achieve a clean energy economy.

Electric Vehicles

The plan aims to remove barriers to the use of EVs, including concerns about price, range, and access to charging stations.

    • Build a national electric charging system of 500,000 public charging outlets so that Americans can drive anywhere in the United States in an EV by 2030.
    • Help state and local governments plan for the widespread adoption of EVs.
    • Restoring the electric-vehicle tax credit and incentivizing businesses to shift their fleets to EVs. Additionally, Biden says that he will ensure that the U.S. Department of Energy invests $5 billion over five years in battery and energy storage technology, to boost the range and slash the price of electric cars.
    • The U.S. Department of Transportation will also provide an additional $1 billion per year in grants to ensure the charging stations are installed by certified technicians.
    • Convene the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation to coordinate on special demonstration projects, e.g. testing new highways that can charge EVs while in transit, and pilot projects that use EVs as mobile energy storage units. The Departments will provide grants to cities, towns, and counties that are open to piloting new kinds of charging infrastructure.
    • Enact policies to promote domestic manufacturing of EVs.
    • Workforce training like the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP).

Energy Efficient Buildings

The Biden Plan will reinstate tax credits for residential energy efficiency; it also expands tax deductions for energy retrofits, smart metering systems, and other emissions-reducing investments in commercial buildings.
    • Increase investment in low-income weatherization programs and key technologies like electric heat pumps.
    • Work with local and state governments and the private sector to expand the utilization of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).
    • Reinstate the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which will expire in two years.

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5G: Opportunities and Challenges for Electric Distribution Companies

Electric utilities to be both users and participants in this new world of communications.

The advent of newer telecommunications technologies, such as 5G, is bringing to realization many new capabilities including wireless broadband services, low latency connectivity, and the ability to bring millions of internet connected devices — all of which will have a direct and indirect impact on electric distribution utilities.

There are realistic and practical opportunities for electric utilities to be both users and participants in this new world of communications. Utilities, regardless of their governance structure, business structure, or size, will have an opportunity to engage with these technologies. The level of participation will range from passive users to active partners, from pure infrastructure agents to collaborative contributors, and from pay-for-services rendered to possible owners of these capabilities.

The level of engagement utilities will have depends on a number of factors that will impact the relationship between utilities and communications providers. These generally include regulatory constraints, which may dictate the level of participation or ability to enter into commercial enterprise, corporate governance structure, the franchise or operating structure that sets the boundaries of what services can be offered to customers.

Additionally, there is the willingness that utilities will have to invest time, dedicate resources, and allocate capital — all of which translates to the potential financial, reputational, and service risk, as well as the opportunity to reap rewards that would be associated with the varying depth and breadth of the commercial arrangements.

The Promise of 5G

The fifth-generation wireless communications generation (5G) is based on the standards adopted by the International Telecommunications Council (ITC) and their third-generation partnership program (3GPP). It is an open, interoperable standard used by virtually all carriers. The major changes that this technology promises are improvements in the following requirements: speed, reduction in latency, higher bandwidth, greater capacity for connected devices, a targeted 99.999% uptime, the goal of 100% coverage, reduction in network energy usage, and up to 10-year battery life.

In terms of numbers, 5G speed will be up to 10Gbps peak data rate (a 10x to 100x improvement over 4G networks), latency will approach less than 1 msec (compared to 50 msec to 100 msec in 4G), there will be 1000x bandwidth increase per unit, and the network will support up to 100x the number of simultaneously connected devices.

The 5G map of functionality visually shows these areas that have been classified as massive internet of things (IoT) or machine type communications (mMTC), ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC), and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB).

Providing ultra-reliable low-latency services for 5G with unattended data centers Source: J. Varga, A. Hilt, C. Rotter, and G. Járó

Operational Opportunities for Utilities to Leverage Carrier-Based 5G

While the primary focus for this new technology from a common carrier's perspective seems to center around broadband services, the most likely areas that will be important to electric utilities will be the increased capacity to support field area network needs for connected grid devices. The "Grid of Things" will greatly benefit from the connectedness afforded by the larger IoT.

"We plan to leverage our AMI network for connectivity needs, but that may change as we deploy more 'grid-edge' devices," said an executive of a mid-sized mid-Atlantic utility.

Low-latency services potentially offer the opportunity to leverage this technology to support mission critical applications, such as protective relay management, SCADA, and substation communications.

"Use of 5G can potentially provide SCADA and other system data over a cellular network versus a hard-wired solution through fiber or copper," said a general manager of a Connecticut public utility.

The high data rate mmWave wireless broadband services may be applied to augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), an area where some utilities like Duke Energy and EPRI are actively leveraging, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will improve asset management and visualization.

Utility-Owned/Private LTE

As technologies continue to provide improved performance capabilities, the industry demand for hardware, software, and services is driving the cost of these components further down the price curve. In many cases, utilities may already own frequency spectrums where these assets can operate and are exploring and deploying private LTE (PLTE). In the past few months, new frequency auctions in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz band were held in an area known as Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS). Approximately 400 licenses were obtained by 11 electric utilities (6 IOUs, 4 co-ops, and one Muni).

Challenges 5G Creates for Electric Utilities

There are key foundational elements for this new communications infrastructure that include the use of existing and higher frequency spectra. These are the low band (less than 1 GHz) and the mid band (1 GHz to 10 GHz). These are where most of the 4G and LTE systems currently operate, but 5G involves the introduction of the high-band (15 GHz to 95 GHz) spectrum or mmWave.

Because of the physics of propagation, the high-band network will require a dense array of communications elements, known as small cells. In general, 'small cells' are defined by both their range — that is, how far the signals they transmit and receive can travel — and in many cases, the number of simultaneous users they can support.

Given the proliferation of microcells and the drive for carriers and infrastructure firms, like American Tower, Crown Castle, and SBA Communications, to leverage existing structures like electric distribution poles there is an increasing need for greater standardization of issues such as regulatory requirements, policies, safety concerns, and aesthetics.

Regulatory Requirements

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established key requirements through various orders: "Pole access also is essential to the race for 5G because mobile and fixed wireless providers are increasingly deploying innovative small cells on poles and because these wireless services depend on wireline backhaul. Indeed, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 small cells will be constructed by the end of 2018, and these numbers are projected to reach 455,000 by 2020 and 800,000 by 2026."

To facilitate the deployment of small cells, the FCC adopted a streamlined process for the rollout of these assets including setting governance over shot clocks and guidance over local governance regarding spacing, equipment design, and aesthetic concerns. It also established a new pole attachment process that includes "one touch make-ready" (OTMR), in which the new attacher performs all make-ready work.

OTMR speeds up and reduces the cost of broadband deployment by allowing the party with the strongest incentive — the new attacher — to prepare the pole quickly by performing all of the work itself, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties. This also covers areas such as overlashing.

Source: Seattle City Light

In the United States, approximately 25 state legislators have enacted small cell legislation that streamlines the facilitation of these assets. These include applications to access public right of ways, caps on costs, and fees and shot clocks for consideration and processing.


Utilities like CPS Energy (CPSE) have put in place a set of policies that addresses best practices. They have established an Energy Pole Attachment Program to facilitate constructive dialog with attaching entities and ensure transparency: "CPSE standards provide for a non-discriminatory, consistent, and streamlined approach for the access and use of CPS Energy Poles in a manner that will facilitate the delivery of the variety of communication services offered today, as well as assist with speed-to-market processes for future technologies in a manner that is consistent with the safe and reliable operation of CPS Energy Facilities."

CPSE has a website for access to its pole attachment standard to facilitate this process.

Summary and Call to Action

The use of electric poles for placement of 5G mmWave small cells will happen. Electric utilities need to investigate, evaluate, and execute the following actions:

Fully understand the regulatory and legislative orders as they relate to OTMR requirements, shot clock, and reduction of barriers.
Follow the local governance guides that may apply in states where there is a policy or rule.
Develop internal policies and practices that comply with these regulations.
Establish collaborative relationships with carriers and tower installation companies.
Maintain equality and transparency.
Seek ways to collaborate on needs and services (that is, powering, access, and possible use of existing communications backhaul).


This article is a summation of work performed by EnerNex under a contract with Distribution Systems Testing, Application, and Research (DSTAR), which is a consortium of electric utilities, facilitated by GE's Energy Consulting business (General Electric International, Inc.), sharing the results of distribution research. 

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