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What’s Next for the U.S. Power Grid

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Freelance Energy and Technology Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked with...

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  • May 16, 2022
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a new initiative called Building a Better Grid. According to an article appearing on Nextgov, the program focuses on upgrading the U.S. electrical grid and supporting a more sustainable economy. The program seeks to establish a safe, reliable, and resilient grid and connect more Americans to clean energy. But what does a “better grid” look like? Let’s examine some of the expected developments.

A Carbon-free Future

Renewables are a critical part of the ability to meet local, state, and federal net-zero goals. However, access across the country is inconsistent. In some areas, renewables are inaccessible, while in others they are becoming a cost-effective alternative. Part of the solution is connecting areas with a high concentration of renewable energy resources to those with high demand. The World Resources Institute notes, “Just as the U.S. invested in interstate highways to transport goods and pipelines to carry fuel over 60 years ago, the country should invest in long-distance, high-capacity transmission lines today.”

Modernization

Modernizing grid infrastructure is critical for improving resiliency and cybersecurity. The Building a Better Grid plan includes $20 billion in federal funding to modernize transmission capabilities. Modernization also includes using technologies like microgrids, advanced metering, grid-scale energy storage devices, and grid hardware, as well as programs like demand response. Additionally, especially in areas susceptible to extreme events like wildfires, some utilities will underground power lines to help prevent such catastrophes.

EV Infrastructure

Electric vehicles (EVs) and charging stations are two more important parts of the modern grid. The National Electric Highway Coalition, a group of U.S. power companies, plans to build a coast-to-coast fast-charging network along major U.S. travel corridors by late 2023. Additionally, experts expect some states to create new efforts to promote EVs, including benefits to EV owners.

Smart Ideas

New technologies are another big part of Building a Better Grid. According to the Nextgov article, $3 billion will be used “to deploy advanced equipment like flow control devices, conductors, dynamic line rating, and other optimization technologies.” DOE will engage in research and development to make additional improvements to the grid. Meanwhile, smart components of the grid will make it more efficient than the grid of the past. And a procedural innovation, the Southeast Energy Exchange Market (SEEM) will play a part by facilitating renewable energy trading.

As states strive to meet net-zero goals, their plans include not just infrastructure and process updates but also ensuring the energy transition equitable for vulnerable populations. According to The Hill, resilience must take into consideration “underlying social vulnerability, and the disproportionate impact on communities that cannot afford backup power systems and cutting edge energy storage capabilities.” Microgrid Knowledge also comments on this issue, posing the question, “How can we ensure that build back better also means build back fairer?” With these issues in mind, utility operators and governmental and regulatory agencies have the opportunity to not just improve but rebuild the grid to help residences and businesses have more reliable power, create jobs, and contribute to a more equitable world.

What grid improvement initiatives is your utility working on? Please share in the comments.

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