Distribution Area Quick Reference

Background on EPRI, types of research projects, and information on advisory groups

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI): Conducts research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) projects for the benefit of the public in the United States and internationally. As an independent, nonprofit organization for public interest energy and environmental research, we focus on electricity generation, delivery, and use in collaboration with the electricity sector, its stakeholders and others to enhance the quality of life by making electric power safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible.

In November 1965, the Great Northeastern Blackout left 30 million people in the United States without electricity, starkly demonstrating the nation’s growing dependence on electricity and vulnerability to its loss. It marked a watershed for the U.S. electricity sector and triggered the creation of EPRI. Since 1972, EPRI has collaborated with the electricity sector and its stakeholders such that our membership has grown to represent approximately 90% of the electric utility revenue generated in the United States and extends to participation in more than 35 countries.

EPRI’s Distribution Area programs conduct research, development, and demonstrations that provide the technical basis and tools to support the planning, design, construction, maintenance, operation, and analysis of the distribution system. Program structure and content provides the template for how EPRI coordinates and executes on research efforts. Each area program provides a unique perspective. Together, they address the challenges that distribution system owners face today and help prepare them with the tools and capabilities needed for transformation to a modern grid. This research further supports EPRI’s mission to provide a Safe, Reliable, Affordable and Environmentally Responsible source of electric power for society.

Programs and Projects


What Distribution Area Programs include: Distribution Systems (P180), Integration of Distributed Energy Resources (P174), and Distribution Operations and Planning (P200).

Who Area Program Managers and technical staff execute research and manage the projects. Supporting members advise and collaborate on research, serve as host sites, and provide input on real world research needs.

How Programs consist of individual projects in which utilities participate through annual funding and collaboration. Funders are provided no-cost access to project deliverables which are released for a particular year (or years) of funding.

When Programs are ongoing research efforts. EPRI, in collaboration with program funders, determines the most important research needs to be handled in current-year projects. A project may take one or more year to complete.

Annual Research Portfolio (ARP)

Also referred to as Base Funded or Membership.

What Distribution ARP programs are groups of projects that address related research topics and are offered to members on an annual basis. Projects generally are multi-year efforts, are of interest to a large number of utilities, and address significant industry issues (e.g., asset inspection and maintenance, asset analytics, safety, DER impact and value, planning, and protection).

Who EPRI subject matter experts (SMEs) and leadership collaborate with members to chart the direction of the ARP and identify projects based on system experiences, present trends, existing roadmaps, and other ancillary information. EPRI SMEs, augmented by world-class contractors, conduct the research. Participating members serve as technical advisors to the projects.

How The following year ARP is published in June. Companies may join entire programs, individual projects or project sets (groups of related projects). During the year, research is performed and deliverables are created for members which have funded the research. Typically, EPRI owns the research results and provides an internal use license for the deliverables to funders. The cost to join Distribution ARP projects is based on the utility’s prior year distribution annual GWh delivered. Annual ARP selections are made using the Research Portfolio Agreement (RPA).

When Members can join an ARP offering at any time during the year up until December 31. Deliverables, and other forms of technology transfer, are provided throughout the year, but most are delivered near the end of the year.

Technology Innovation (TI) Program

What TI program and projects generally have longer-term goals and have higher research risks. Learnings from TI projects can inform and inspire future ARP projects and provide thought leadership for EPRI members, society, and other stakeholders.

Who The TI program is managed by a separate team, including the process for prioritization of projects and allocation of funding. EPRI technical staff execute the projects. The TI program is advised by EPRI’s Research Advisory Committee (RAC), comprised of senior management of EPRI members.

How Twelve percent of ARP funding is allocated to the TI program. An internal process is used to allocate funding. All TI deliverables in a given year are available to all EPRI members investing in an EPRI research program in that year.

When Funding is allocated on an annual basis.

Supplemental Projects

Includes Tailored Collaboration (TC), Self-directed Funding (SDF), and Co-Funding Projects

What Supplemental projects address specific issues that may be of interest to a group of members or a single member. Projects may involve research, demonstration or implementation of advanced tools, technologies, or technology transfer. If a supplemental project has multiple funders, the scope is identical for all participants. Typically, EPRI owns the research results and provides funders an internal use license for the project deliverables. Research results may be further developed by EPRI in other projects.

Who Area Program Managers and technical staff conduct the research. Participating members designate a technical advisor to lead their collaboration in the project, including serving as a host site and/or providing examples, experience, and data.

How The EPRI technical staff and project funders agree upon a statement of work (SOW) defining the scope, schedule, and deliverables. Companies join the project through revenue agreement, which usually adopts pre-determined terms and conditions in a master agreement between EPRI and the funder. ARP Funders can join using SDF, TC funding, or co-funding (see below). Project funders receive the project deliverable(s) at no additional charge. Others who did not fund the project, but desire access to the deliverables, must purchase or license the priced deliverable(s).

When Supplemental projects can be initiated at any time during the year and can be initiated quickly. Deliverables are generally delivered on the schedule identified in the SOW. Supplemental projects may be multi-year.

Supplemental Funding Types

Self-Directed Funding (SDF), Tailored Collaboration Funding (TC), and Co-Funding

What Twenty-five percent of a member’s ARP funding is allocated to either an SDF or TC account or pool that can be used by the funder to join supplemental projects. Projects must meet criteria defined in the Supplemental Funding Policy document found on the EPRI Member Center website.

  • Self-Directed Funding (SDF): Pooled SDF funds can be used entirely to participate in a supplemental project or joined with co-funding (see below).
  • Tailored Collaboration Funding (TC): Pooled TC funding must be matched by the funder with an equal amount of co-funding to participate in a supplemental project. TC plus the matching co-funding may also be combined with additional co-funding (see below).
  • Co-funding: Funding provided directly from a utility through an invoicing process. Members may join supplemental projects using entirely co-funding, or using a combination of co-funding and SDF (or TC) funding.

Who The SDF or TC account is usually managed by the member’s Manager of EPRI Technology Transfer (METT). Participating companies decide whether to have TC (see below) or SDF funding when they submit their ARP selections each year.

How Funding is transferred from the SDF or TC pools to a supplemental project using a revenue agreement, including a statement of work. Where co-funding is involved, the revenue agreement includes invoicing terms. Participation using TC, SDF, or co-funding can be initiated via an online tool or through discussion with EPRI staff.

When Funding in the TC or SDF pool must be committed to a project under written contract by the end of the year in which it is generated or the funds lapse.

Billable Service Agreement (BSA)

What A BSA is available for EPRI to do services work. A BSA is used for specific results that can solve an issue or specific problem without limiting EPRI from performing the same approach, idea, or concept for other funders. Typically, if the deliverable is a report, that report is “owned” by the funder, but EPRI owns the background technology and any improvements to the background technology which occur during the contract period. Billable Services are generally not eligible for TC or SDF. There can be limits on the types of services work which EPRI can undertake. For example, EPRI does not provide expert witness services in court cases. These limitations are guided by EPRI’s tax exempt status and independence requirements. The total amount of BSA-related work that EPRI performs, in aggregate, is limited by EPRI’s non-profit tax status because it does not meet the public benefit research criteria.

Who Area Program Managers and technical staff work with the requesting organization to agree upon a statement of work defining the scope, schedule, and deliverables.

How Funding is transferred to a BSA project using a revenue agreement which includes invoicing terms and a SOW. Terms and conditions are often incorporated from a master agreement in place between EPRI and the funder. A BSA is initiated by discussions with EPRI staff.

When A BSA can be executed at any time during the year.

Master Agreement

What Almost all members have a master agreement in place setting out the terms and conditions for most projects involving EPRI and the member. Pre-negotiating terms such as confidentiality requirements, export control, and licensing requirements, means that supplemental projects can be easy to initiate once the SOW and member funding sources (e.g. SDF or co-funding) are determined. There are limited occasions where a vendor involvement, government funding, or special project needs, leads to additional terms (e.g. special host utility access requirements for those working on, or visiting its site).

Who The master agreement is usually negotiated, agreed upon, and signed by the legal departments and management of the member and EPRI.

How The master agreement is referenced in the RPA, in supplemental agreements (SDF, TC, co-funding), and in BSAs.

When The master agreement is typically in place for a longer duration; recent agreements have had a duration of 10 years.

Delivery of Results

What EPRI research deliverables may include technical reports, technical updates, software, workshops, hardware demonstrations, field guides, and reference manuals, each released with product identification (PID) numbers. BSA deliverables are an exception and do not have PIDs.

Who Companies that join specific ARP or supplemental projects receive an internal use license and access to the deliverables from that project at no additional charge under the terms of their agreement. For ARP, the funding for the program/ project must be provided in the year of release for the funder to receive access at no additional charge. Typically, companies that did not fund the specific project can license or purchase a specific deliverable provided they meet all licensing and export control requirements (license & export checks for funders occur at the contract stage). BSA deliverables are usually not available for purchase by others.

How EPRI deliverables from ARP and supplemental projects are stored and available for download from EPRI’s Member Center (membercenter.epri.com). Typically, only eligible users can download specific EPRI deliverables for no additional fee, based upon which programs and projects they have joined. Some project deliverables (webcasts, conference call updates) are not available to non-funders.

When Most ARP deliverables are provided at the end of the year. Supplemental deliverables are provided as defined in the project’s SOW.

Existing Product Credits

What In exchange for a minimum, multi-year commitment at a mutually agreed level and type, EPRI provides credits for members to use towards the purchase or license of existing EPRI deliverables for which a member would otherwise not be eligible (for example, where a member did not fund the work producing the deliverable).

Who The Product Credit Pool is usually managed by the METT at each utility.

How Participant SMEs engage their company’s METT to request that Product Credits are used to gain access to a specific EPRI deliverable. When Product Credits may be used at any time during the multi-year agreement. The product Credit Pool expires at the end of the multi-year agreement.


Distribution Sector Council (DSC)

What The DSC provides executive level advice to the Distribution area. The DSC is regularly briefed on ongoing RD&D progress and provide strategic guidance on technical issues, research areas, and EPRI business operational areas for improvement. The DSC is a subset of the Power Delivery & Utilization (PDU) Sector Council, which also includes the Transmission, Energy Utilization, and Information Communication & Cyber Security (ICCS) areas.

Who DSC positions are generally filled by executives from EPRI’s members.

How During PDU and DSC meetings, EPRI staff and members make presentations and roundtable discussions follow.

When Sector Council meets twice each year (winter and fall) on the Wednesday and Thursday following the Distribution area advisory meetings.

Distribution Executive Committees (DEC)

What The DEC advises the EPRI Distribution Sector leadership and collaborates with EPRI to develop the DSC agendas.

Who The DEC is comprised of a subset of executives from the DSC and is led by the DSC Chair and EPRI DSC Leader.

How The DEC communicates through webcasts, face-to-face meetings, and surveys.

When Webcasts are held on an as-needed basis. Breakfast meetings are usually held on the Thursday morning of the Sector Council Meeting.

Distribution Advisory Groups

What The Distribution advisory groups provide guidance to the research areas and are: 1) made aware of R&D progress; 2) share member practices including use of EPRI research results; 3) share utility experiences that can help inform EPRI’s research programs; 4) advise R&D roadmaps; and 5) identify EPRI business operational areas for improvement.

Who Members are often directors/managers from member utilities, led by the EPRI Distribution Area Program Managers and technical staff and the program chair.

How Each Distribution program has its own advisory meeting, and sometimes meets jointly with other programs to enhance collaboration. Presentations are made by EPRI staff and member utilities with roundtable discussions following.

When Distribution advisory groups meet with other PDU Advisory Groups twice each year (winter and fall) on Monday through Wednesday (midday). Distribution advisors may also participate through project task forces, which generally meet three times per year, to advise projects, or through topical technical webcasts that are held throughout the year (see Research Area Operational Calendar graphic).

Distribution Task Forces (TF)

What Task Forces advise groups of ARP projects based on technical area (see Advisory graphic). TFs are made aware of R&D progress and results in their areas of funding, collaborate on ongoing research, identify new research areas, and provide a forum for members to share research applications and utility operational experiences.

Who Task Forces are generally staffed by the SMEs assigned by member utilities to advise each ARP project. TFs are led by EPRI technical staff together with a utility TF leadership team.

How Presentations are made by EPRI staff and member utilities followed by roundtable discussions. TF presentations often focus on enabling member application of R&D results.

When The TFs generally meet three times per year, by webcast or otherwise, to update the TF on progress (see Research Area Operational Calendar graphic).