Modern Grid

The idea of a modern power grid system is a giant leap into the new era to some, while others argue it is another door for threats. In the United States, consumers, companies, private sectors, and governments all depend on electricity. Some can argue life its self depends on electricity, and creating a modernized power grid raises some eye brows and concerns.

While the United States government is still remains on the century old system, it has taken initiative to support the building of a modern grid system because of the growing demand for power, the lack of the current system to stay up with the demand, and to utilize the use of renewable energy within the new modern grid. The office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability claims that a framework policy is needed for the 21st century grid that the Obama administration should “pursue in order to ensure that all Americans benefit from investments in the Nation's electric infrastructure (DOE)”.

The outcomes would be “better alignment of economic incentives” that will enhance development of smarter technology, and empower the end user with data which will save energy and lower costs. The department of Energy partnered with energy organization, academic institutions and local state governments to modernize the grid. A federal Smart Grid Task Force direct by the department of Energy wants to “ensure awareness, coordination, and integration of the diverse federal activities related to smart grid technologies and practices (DOE)”.

This task force includes professionals from multiple related government agencies. It will be more efficient, smarter, and reliable than the current system. The current power grid design is over a hundred years old and is lacking the growing high demand.

According to James A. Fay and Dan S. Golomb’s book “Energy and the Environment” forty four percent of total energy is used to generate electrical power alone (Energy). Jennifer Weeks writes in an online CQ Researcher article “Modernizing the Grid” that this energy coming from Coal, Nuclear or hydropower plants is sent to load centers where it is distributed through a network of three hundred thousand mile long power lines to the end user(weeks). This system has seen multiple black outs in past and proven to be vulnerable.

President Obama addressed the issue himself emphasizing the need for a new grid system by saying The U.S. power grid still runs on century-old technology. It wastes too much energy, it costs us too much money and it's too susceptible to outages and blackouts (White).”

The president continues on by saying “it's time to make the same kind of investment in the way our energy travels -- to build a clean energy superhighway that can take the renewable power” (White). Demand for power is also on the rise. The Global Energy Institute states that the annual demand for power grew 3.9 percent in 2002 and continues to grow mainly due to severe weather changes, population growth, bigger houses, more air conditioners and more computers (GENI). The new smart grid claims it is the solution for the high demand and high price.

The modernize grid will be a more efficient and smart system. The electric industry is aiming to transform from a centralized, producer controlled system into one that is more consumer interactive. A smarter grid makes this transformation by the concepts and technologies that enable the internet to the utility power systems. On the greentechgrid website, Paul DE Martini writes in his article titled “Guest Post: Modernizing the Grid”, that the new grid system will “integrate energy technology with information technology to create a smarter, more secure and more robust grid (Martini).” Jennifer also states that “modernizing the grid will deliver more electricity to high-demand areas, reduce consumers’ utility bills, make power supplies more reliable and create clean energy jobs (weeks)”.

The new grid would also include sensors that give real-time data and analysis on the power systems making it easier to monitor the output of the system, and maintain and repair faults that occur. Utility companies would not need to send their workers to gather data anymore. Not only that, it also enable more power to flow over existing lines. In addition consumers will be able to monitor their usage by the hour using a smart meter.

This will allow them to conserve power during high demand. Weeks claims that “smart meters show customers how much power they are using and how much it costs in near-real time” (weeks). As well as a high capability of energy storage making it more reliable and stable while providing higher quality power (Martini). So what’s the catch?

Many things have to be put under consideration when thinking about a new modernized power grid. One of the biggest factors is cost. This project carries a loud price tag of over 100 billion dollars and the costs may continue for a longer time (weeks). It requires creating more transmission lines from renewable energy sources such as solar, and wind. Because the current grid transmission system connects from sources like coal, nuclear and gas (Weeks).

This made state regulators skeptical if it is worth the cost. Others have raised the issue that building such power lines will have a negative effect on the land. Another factor that concerns the most people is security. Because the modernized power grid will depend heavily on wireless communication, it is a valuable target for hackers.

Advocates claim that the security issue can be solved (weeks). But if the United States electrical grid system were to be attacked, it would take a major toll, which is why the need for a solid wall to protect the grid is essential. This kind of attack has been called “the Electronics Pearl Harbor”. However the government has taken steps to ensure the development of this wall by awarding $18.5 million dollars to a program at the University of Illinois called Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (weeks).

The new smart grid will definitely enhance the way we perceive electricity and power. It is a step into the future. As they say, in with the new out with the old. It is time for the old to retire and make way for the new generation of technology, power and invention. But we have to keep in mind that a new energy grid system that will rely on renewable energy sources will clash with some corporate interest. Opposition is present and will remain, and lobbyist will be on their feet. It’s up to the people to get off the bandwagon to make the right decisions and vote for the right policy makers.

Sources:

Weeks, J. (2010, February 19). Modernizing the grid. CQ Researcher,20, 145-168. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/

"DOE Smart Grid | Department of Energy." Energy.gov | Department of Energy. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. .

"White House Remarks by the President on Recovery Act Funding for Smart Grid Technology." The White House. Office of the Press Secretary, 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. .

United States. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Department of Energy. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Web. .

"GENI National Energy Grid of United States of America - National Electricity Transmission Grid of Armenia - Global Energy Network Institute - GENI Conducts Research and Education On: Renewable Energy Resources Interconnections Globally, World Peace, Stable Sustainable Development Solutions." Global Energy Network Institute - GENI - Electricity Grid Linking Renewable Energy Resources Around the World. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. .

Energy and the environment: scientific and technological principles James A.Fay - D. Golomb - Oxford University Press – 2012

MARTINI, PAUL. "Guest Post: Modernizing the Grid : Greentech Media." Green Technology | Cleantech and Renewable Energy News and Analysis. Greentechgrid, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. .