The U.S. electrical grid is 50-80 years old. It is based on old technology and the infrastructure is old. It does not meet the needs of our modern energy use:
- It is the single largest source of wasted energy – improvement to the grid could easily save 20% of electricity. We need better design and additional transmission lines. There are many “waste areas”. Correcting the major ones can save 10% rather quickly.
- We are missing transmission lines from the renewable energy generation areas to the centers of energy consumption. Building transmission lines is one of the main roadblocks for faster implementation of renewable energy.
- The grid is not flexible enough to prevent power outages, thereby requiring too much spare energy generation. We are currently overproducing electricity because the load balancing is not up to the task.
- The grid is not built for distributed energy generation (for example by solar panels on roof tops). It is largely a one way system.
- It is not designed to meet the rise of use by electrical battery cars. If battery based cars are charged only at night, we will not need to add capacity for many years.
The U.S. needs “a Manhattan project” to upgrade its electrical grid. It is badly needed and will improve U.S. competitiveness. It is a clear mission that can be initiated by the federal government and should include:
It is a critical component of the electricity based economy that will expand in the 21 century.
- We need federal design and oversight commission to manage the project. It is not a state issue.
- A redesign of the electrical grid to meet the changed usage patterns of the 21 century. We need to think of the grid as the next Internet (i.e., distributed). We can start immediately with available technologies, like additional transmission lines and smart meters. A Smart Grid should be able to communicate information about the availability, price, and cleanliness of power, enabling more consumer choice, faster demand response, and increased grid reliability.
- We need similar legal easements and land use amendments that were used to build our railroads, interstate freeways, and oil and gas pipes. The new grid is a “must do” infrastructure project of the same importance as these projects. It will solve the regulatory problem.
- Significant research to improve the grid technology. We are using early 20th century technology.