Director's Corner

Release Date: December 09, 2015

Heat, Light, and Innovation


“December's wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memory.”

—John Geddes

In December, perhaps more than any other month, we at NETL feel a special sense of pride. During this, the coldest, darkest time of the year, we’re aware that the laboratory’s innovations enable Americans to stay warm and illuminated, and to connect with family and friends, while also protecting the environment and conserving energy resources.

For more than a century, NETL has been a leader in fossil energy innovation. By discovering and maturing power technologies that enable the continued use of coal, oil, and natural gas in an environmentally sound manner—and by finding better ways to deliver that heat- and light-enabling power—we help our neighbors, communities, and the nation stay safe, warm, and comfortable.

There are many examples. One is our work to transform the U.S. electric power grid from an aging, over-stressed network into a modern, stable system, so that reliable, affordable, high-quality power remains at consumers’ fingertips. NETL currently manages 32 Smart Grid Demonstration Projects that are dedicated to creating a new “modern grid” that will redefine the U.S. electric power infrastructure. These projects are introducing new sensors, hardware, and sophisticated software that help continuously inform power providers and enable decision-making that optimizes power-delivery systems.

NETL is also a leader in solid-state lighting research, which makes lighting our homes more efficient. By 2030, solid-state lighting, such as light-emitting diodes (LED), could potentially reduce the electricity Americans use for lighting by nearly one half. That’s roughly the output of 50 1,000-megawatt power plants. NETL manages a portfolio of solid-state lighting projects, including technologies that will help predict the reliability of LED lighting products and achieve significant performance gains.

During the holidays, many Americans will travel to be with friends and family. While on the highways, they’ll likely see many electric vehicles (EVs), especially with 60 new commercial models either on the market or poised for introduction. Once again, NETL is making a positive impact as we work to improve the EV charging infrastructure across the country. Four such projects, managed by NETL, have successfully reduced the cost of EV charging equipment by 45–55 percent of the current price point. This is an exciting accomplishment because reducing the installed cost of EV charging infrastructure is a key to transitioning electric vehicles from early market acceptance to mainstream adoption.

These are just a few examples of how NETL is providing energy solutions for today and discovering energy options for tomorrow. I’m pleased that the lab’s innovations help make the dark months bright, the cold days warm, and power our nation throughout the year.

On behalf of everyone at NETL, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

As Acting Director of NETL, Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., builds on an extensive background in energy as he leads NETL in its mission to enhance the nation’s energy independence and protect the environment for future generations. For more information about Sean Plasynski's experience, please click here.