Last Minute Removal Of Barriers To Fusion

Todd Moses
May 14, 2024

While the electric grid is stretched to its limit, many new power projects are held in backlogs known as "interconnection queues," waiting for approval to be built and connected to the grid.

Inputs that matter: On Monday, the U.S. federal government approved a rule that could bolster new energy projects on the electric grid.

  • The rule, from an independent panel known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), seeks to address the long wait to connect renewable energy.
  • The new rule addresses this issue by setting a standard for regional power planning. It was approved in a 2-1 vote.
  • The rule will require planning for regional power needs on a basis that the rule describes as "forward-looking."

The opportunity: FERC Chairman Willie Phillips touted the rule as helping the grid to meet modern challenges like increasing power demand, extreme weather, and the ongoing transition to more climate-friendly power sources.

  • "We simply will not be able to address these converging challenges and continue to supply the reliable, abundant, and affordable power the American people depend on without taking a clear-eyed, long-term, forward-looking approach to transmission planning," he said.
  • "That is why our rule requires transmission planners to plan to look forward on a 20-year time horizon, consider a broad set of reliability and economic benefits, consider using money saving grid enhancing technologies where it makes sense [and] expand states' pivotal role throughout the planning process, selecting and deciding how to pay for transmission facilities."

Zoom in: However, Mark Christie criticized the rule's consideration of factors in power planning, such as state climate plans, corporate power preferences, and which power sources are already waiting in line.

  • Sam Altman has invested $375 million in Helion Energy, the first company in the world to secure a purchase agreement for nuclear fusion energy. Microsoft included it in its plan to transition to clean energy sources by the end of the decade.
  • This first fusion power plant, whose feasibility is being assessed in Chelan County, Washington, will produce electricity that will be used to power the grid.
  • Constellation will serve as the Power Marketer for Helion's first customer, Microsoft.

Between the lines: The Independent explains that nuclear fusion is described as the "holy grail" of clean energy, providing near-limitless energy by mimicking the natural reactions that occur within the Sun.

  • Dr. Francesco Sciortino, co-founder, and CEO of Proxima Fusion, told TechCrunch that the new approach to fusion is only possible because AI can simulate the behavior of the plasma, thus bringing the prospect of viable nuclear fusion nearer.

Follow the money: The Washington-based company Helion, considered a frontrunner in the race to develop a cost-effective commercial fusion power plant, said it plans to be the first fusion energy company in the world to produce electricity from its prototype Polaris reactor in 2024.

  • This company raised $500 million to achieve the "net electricity" target, with commitments for an additional $1.7 billion once Helion attains specific key performance targets
  • In a recent interview, Helion Founder and CEO David Kirtley told The Energy Daily that we are "on track to have Polaris built by mid-2024."
  • "As soon as assembly is completed, we will start operations."

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