Accelerating Deployment of Innovations to Modernize the U.S. Electric Grid

Authors: Adam Cohen, David Catarious, and Matthew Schaub


Grid modernization should be a major part of a national infrastructure-investment initiative. Effectively and efficiently modernizing the U.S. electric grid requires rapid deployment of innovative grid technologies. The next administration should establish a Grid Resilience Innovation Demonstration (GRID) Network, run in partnership between the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense, to test and accelerate deployment of such technologies. The GRID Network would integrate and build on existing microgrids on federal installations and other relevant facilities, resulting in a group of geographically-distributed test beds that can be managed and operated as a national user facility. The distributed nature of the network would allow test beds to ensure that solutions are compatible with a variety of grid technologies and operational structures and would also insulate the network from security threats, and other risks.

Prioritizing establishment of the GRID Network early in the next administration will enable our nation to quickly realize the benefits of a modern electric grid, including enhanced resilience to natural disasters, entrepreneurship opportunities, and job growth. Failure to act will leave our national grid vulnerable to hostile actors, rob the country of needed shovel-ready construction projects and manufacturing jobs, and undermine U.S. leadership in electric sector innovation.

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About the Authors

Adam Cohen is the CEO and President of AUI, which manages and operates large R&D facilities for the U.S. government, including the National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He served as the Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Obama administration, where he oversaw basic science, applied energy research, technology development, and deployment efforts, including the stewardship of 13 of the 17 DOE National Laboratories and several large international projects. Previously, he served for 25 years in various positions at the National Labs, primarily Argonne and Princeton. Dr. Cohen started his career serving as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. In addition to his role at AUI, Dr. Cohen serves as a Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Energy and National Security Program.

David M. Catarious, Jr. is the Chief Information Officer and Director of Cybersecurity Programs at AUI. Prior to joining AUI, Dr. Catarious was the Senior Advisor for Cyber Policy at the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In that role, he advised and represented senior DOE leadership in policy matters regarding the cybersecurity of the nation’s electricity grid and other critical energy infrastructure. Dr. Catarious also served as DOE’s designated liaison to the Department of Defense to support collaborative research and development for energy topics of mutual interest, including cybersecure microgrids. Dr. Catarious also served as the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Science and Energy at DOE. In that role, he assisted the Under Secretary in programming and planning the Department’s $10 billion research and development portfolio, including a specific focus on grid modernization. He also serves as an Information Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Matt Schaub is the Communications Director for AUI and has decades of experience at the intersection of business, science, and governance. Most notably, Matt had several roles at the White House during the Obama administration before serving as a Deputy Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy. Matt worked closely with the national energy lab system in that role, as well as during his service as a Designated Federal Officer and Deputy Director of Secretarial Boards and Councils. Matt is a former communications advisor for Argonne National Lab, where he made the impact of government-funded science accessible to a broad and diverse audience.