Energy Infrastructure of the Future

Introduction: The world is undergoing a variety of energy transitions as a result of demographic, economic, climatic, technological, and social forces that are shifting how we acquire and utilize energy. These transitions will result in trillions of dollars of infrastructure investment by 2050. However, it is currently unclear what infrastructure will be needed in coming years and how different transitions will impact existing public and private stakeholders. Consequently, it is possible we will make long-lasting infrastructure investments without understanding the full range of costs and impacts. This work intends to inform those investments by creating decision support tools about and providing an extensive look at how future energy services are provided and energy resources are produced, moved, and consumed throughout the United States.

Objective: The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin will develop an extensive understanding of existing domestic energy infrastructure while also modeling the technical requirements and financial opportunities for a range of future infrastructures within the United States. Our goal with this study is to inform the public dialog and policy formulation about energy infrastructure with quantitative, rigorous, and dispassionate analysis that identifies and quantifies the costs, benefits, and financial opportunities of different options.

Scope of Study: The study will include infrastructure associated with extracting and processing of traditional primary fuels (e.g., oil, gas, coal, uranium), primary-to-energy carrier conversions (e.g., wind turbines, power plants), transmission and distribution of energy (e.g., pipelines, electric grid), and end-use devices (e.g., electric vehicles). The first step of this study will develop an extensive inventory and valuation of existing domestic energy infrastructure, including a description of the types of assets, including purpose, ownership, and vintage/depreciation. The second step of this study will develop methods and tools to model future infrastructure requirements while incorporating the influence of different macro-trends that are driving change: decarbonization, electrification, regulated and unregulated market design, modularity of energy generation, abundance of hydrocarbon products, and information technology & automation. The methods and tools will be made available to allow stakeholders to consider the implications of different future scenarios, each of which will be characterized by assessing both the rate and magnitude of change across the life cycle from primary energy extraction to final energy service.

Value and Impact: This work will deliver value to utilities, manufacturers, financial institutions, policymakers, and energy consumers and producers through its inventory of existing domestic energy infrastructure, the analytical methods, and the interactive decision-support tools that allow public and private stakeholders to better understand the impacts of future energy scenarios.