We hear about the promise of transforming America’s infrastructure every day. But if we’re going to capitalize on that promise, we need to reverse the 20-year trend of underinvestment in energy networks. Greater overall resiliency, reliability and innovation come with a sizeable price tag; it is estimated that U.S. energy infrastructure needs $2.5 trillion in investment by 2035. If we don’t meet this challenge, the growing limitations of our current system threaten to derail progress toward our long-term energy sustainability and security goals. We either invest now, or pay that much more later.
The current regulatory landscape also complicates this transformation. While utilities have always been accountable to regulators, a new approach requires a model that broadens the mandate of utilities to be more accountable for policy outcomes, such as promoting cleaner energy, advancing innovative technologies and driving economic growth. Utilities need incentives to provide broader investment to deliver increasingly cleaner energy solutions. New performance targets and metrics based on policy goals should be developed, and incentive structures for meeting and exceeding these targets – as well as penalties for missing them – must be established.
National Grid has a vision for this energy transformation; it’s called “Connect21”. Our vision focuses on delivering a reconfigured grid that enables plug-and-play functionality for all energy technologies, including supply side wind, solar and natural gas along with demand side energy storage and EVs to deliver lowest-cost services to the customer in real-time. As we work to implement this vision, these regulatory and financial obstacles must be addressed.