Coley Girouard and Bradley Sena
History of the Current Grid
When we speak of electricity infrastructure, we are referring to all of the aspects of the power distribution grid that bring energy from power plants to the consumers. Literally, this consists of generation stations and substations, distribution stations and substations, transformers, networks, and wires. In understanding how the grid developed, one can better understand the limitations facing the grid. The nature of electrical infrastructure development has resulted in a large, interconnected, dilapidated electric system in need of massive physical and regulatory revamping. The history of the national electric grid has been one of consolidation and regulatory centralization so as to ensure increased access to reliable flows of electricity. The grid is incredibly old, having begun as a number of isolated systems. The first isolated system was established in 1882 to power Manhattan. From 1901 to 1932 there was a chaotic period of consolidating and growth of infrastructure led by privately owned utilities companies. After the Great Depression, the Federal government passed legislation regulating and centralizing the energy market even further. However during the late 1960’s problems began to emerge. These concerns led to an attempt to restructure and decentralize electricity generation and distribution that have both helped and hurt the prospects of clean energy distribution.
Limitations of the Grid
The electrical infrastructure is old, outdated, and overtaxed, making transmitting clean energy costly and impractical. While there has been extensive public investment in other forms of infrastructure, investment in energy and telecommunications has received very little public investment. The bulk of investment in energy comes from the private sector.
Options for Upgrading the Grid
Employing smart grid technology is the best way to increase the grids’ efficiency and resiliency while also incorporating alternative energy sources. It can realize greater consumer empowerment and more opportunities for innovation.
There are four main solutions that can help to promote clean energy infrastructure and solve the motivational and incentive issues for utility companies.
- Improve and align market utility incentives
- Bring institutional investors into the market
- Increased research and development
- Provide support for information sharing
Smart grid is the future of our nation’s energy infrastructure. Additionally, decentralizing our system is the most feasible option in our transition. Through a combination of governmental regulation, individual initiative, and advances in technology, we can make the change to clean energy. We need clean energy to ensure a sustainable future.