President Obama’s plans for climate change action called for strengthening the power grid, but with 500 owners and individual states and regions rolling out plans independent from each other, that’s easier said than done, reports the New York Times.
It says hundreds of Department of Energy engineers have spent the last three years attempting a huge undertaking – redesigning the grid for the bulk of the eastern US, which ranges from Nova Scotia to New Orleans. Their plans call for empowering the grid so it can transport big volumes of electricity across the continent and tapping wind energy instead of coal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The planning has cost $16 million and if it were implemented, it would substantially reduce GHG emissions, but the redesign report comes with a disclaimer about the grid’s many owners who do not agree with the plans and see things differently, says the NYT.
Some stakeholders have a vested interest in ensuring electricity is expensive, not cheap, while others support local energy sources – be it coal or off-shore wind, but do not want to import power from areas where it can be produced economically.
Individual areas have their own plans, regardless of how big or small they are and whether they are part of a greater grid region, and there is no federal mechanism that calls for a plan to connect more than two areas.
The grid redesign project predicts that if things continue as they have been until 2030, additional transmission lines will cost $18.5 billion and the cost of incorporating wind power on a large scale will come to $115 billion. The technology, technical skills and funding are available, but there is no agreement on ways to strengthen the grid.
Meanwhile, utility companies have begun rolling out smart meters to their customers, in order to track usage and encourage energy efficiency. National Grid assembled a team of companies from across the US to help it conduct its $44 million smart grid pilot with 15,000 of its electricity customers in Worcester, Mass. National Grid delivers electricity to more than 3 million customers in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.