Electric Power to Combustible Fuels


Coupling the Electric Power & Transportation Sectors

June 30, 2015
10:15-11:45 a.m. PDT

Clark Miller, Energy, Society and Policy Initiative at Arizona State University

Robin Beavers
, NRG Energy
Dawn Manley, Sandia National Laboratories
Marc Melaina, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Levi Tillemann, New America Foundation Cal & Jeff Leonard Fellow


The basic story of “electric power to combustible fuels” is that renewable energy technologies, especially at high penetration, will at times produce “low-value electrons” in the open market, creating the potential for arbitrage. Such “electrons” could be stored for use at a different time, stored in battery electric vehicles, or used to produce water (through, for example, reverse osmosis), or used to produce hydrogen, to name a few possibilities. Some of these conversations are happening, especially surrounding battery electric vehicles. However, other conversations are also important. For example, what if many of the electrons divert to the transportation sector, are we accelerating the combined transition or making it more challenging? Are we increasing economic efficiency? Would recycling waste CO2, as a carbon source to produce fuels, facilitate a combined transition, or impede one or the other?

Numerous issues arise with a greater coupling among the sectors, hence situating electric power-to-fuels as a jumping-off point for the following types of more general questions:

  • Do current policy and business frameworks encourage and harness or impede arbitrage possibilities? Is there a need for policy support or will normal market forces suffice?
  • Could increasing communication and awareness at the interfaces among stakeholder groups lead to greater responsiveness of the combined sectors?
  • Are there more business and technology innovations at the intersection of the stationary power and transportation sectors that might add economic efficiency and accelerate the transition? Does envisioned policy actions support or impede such innovations?