As we reimagine and rebuild America to prepare for a net-zero future, a modernized electricity grid is a critical component to increasing resiliency in our most essential services and infrastructure. Strengthening the electric grid will lessen disruptions caused by malicious actors, reduce power outages in homes across America, and help lower energy bills for all Americans by moving cheaper, cleaner electricity to where it is needed most.
The U.S. electric grid is made up of more than just power plants. It includes transmission lines designed to transport energy over long distances, and distribution systems that carry electricity to the individual customer. It is a complex network of asset owners, manufacturers, service providers, and government officials at the federal, state, and local levels, all working together to provide reliable, resilient, and secure electricity.
Today’s electric grid is aging and is being pushed to do more than it was originally designed to do. A 21st century grid must be flexible and smarter as our energy mix continues to change, with a focus on shifting toward sustainable renewable energy sources like solar and wind. While adding clean energy capacity, we must also secure the power system against hackers, foreign actors, and natural disasters, that are becoming more frequent and extreme because of climate change.
The Department of Energy is working toward a 100% carbon-free power sector by 2035 in support of President Biden’s climate goals. One way to achieve this is to modernize the grid. That means supporting research and development efforts that can optimize power delivery and enhance resilience, implement new interactive capabilities to allow the system to more easily respond to change, and new measurements, data analytics, and models that leverage the latest scientific advancements in mathematics and computation to increase efficiency and reliability.
In addition to modernizing the grid, investments in energy infrastructure – like those proposed in the American Jobs Plan – will increase our clean energy capacity and create millions of jobs. Investments in grid resiliency include technologies that will strengthen our transmission and distribution systems such as:
- Microgrids are a self-sufficient group of energy sources, like solar or wind, that support the energy needs of a local footprint, like a college campus or hospital complex. Microgrids can disconnect from national infrastructure to continue to operate while the main grid is down. Because of this, microgrids can strengthen grid resilience, decrease power outages, and provide energy resources for faster system response and recovery.
- Demand Response is a consumer’s reaction to a high demand for electricity. By limiting or postponing power consumption, during a time of high demand, consumers can help utilities manage increased strain on the grid. Some utilities provide consumer rebates for demand response.
- Advanced Metering, or smart metering, lets consumers know how and when they are using electricity so they can reduce their usage. Advanced metering could also help consumers reduce their electric bills by making them aware of periods of time that have a higher cost of electricity.
- Grid Scale Energy Storage Devices can help utilities continue to provide power during peak loads, when the grid may not be able to support all power needs. These devices can store electricity generated from carbon free sources so it can be used when it is needed most.
- Grid Hardware is critical for carrying, converting, and controlling power. Most of the grid modernization efforts have been focused on advanced digital information and communication technologies, but the physical equipment necessary to move power needs to be updated as well.
The grid of the future must also support electric vehicles and charging stations, newly connected communities, and increased integration of carbon-free resources like solar and wind. A secure and resilient power grid is more than just keeping the lights on, it’s vital to preserving our nation’s security, economic prosperity, and the livelihood of all Americans. It means money saved for families who have more efficient homes capable of withstanding hotter summers and colder winters. It means new businesses with good paying jobs created by entrepreneurs who can help every pocket of the country meet sustainability needs. And it means safeguarding the nation for future generations.