The US Nation’s $177 Billion Electric Bill Investment Gap
Most transmission and distribution (T&D) lines of the electric grids in the US were constructed in the 1950s and 60s with only a 50-year life expectancy. There are three main interconnected power grids– the Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection, and Texas Interconnection in the lower 48 states responsible for 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. These grids are vulnerable to 3 categorical types of threat. Storms and other weather anomalies, cyber attacks, and congestion overloading the system have all created power outages. However, due to the length of some lines, long-term repairs can prove dubious.
“Often a single line cannot be taken out of service to perform maintenance as it will overload other interconnected lines in operation.”
The US can, however, utilize new technology and new engagements to access resources internationally to begin building a supergrid in cities experiencing an abundance of growth over the next 10 to 50 years incrementally replacing existing T&D lines. With some manufacturing returning to the US and industry diversification in developing countries that depend on the US, the demand for energy domestically and internationally will rise.
Improving Commercial Viability for Emerging Market Tech
The emergence of a second grid to supplement growing cities provides new opportunities for smart grid technology and materials such as superconducting mesh, cables, and Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) that substantially cut losses in energy storage and transmission. Advances have also been made in wireless and some green technology. International engagements to develop new materials may improve the commercial viability for some of these emerging technologies to the benefit of both the US and developing countries.
The geology and weather of some areas have also changed since the time the original grid was established. Urban growth in some areas like San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, Atlanta, and Dallas, northern Colorado, and other midsize cities present the new opportunities for designs that work with existing and projected environmental conditions. The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 577 fast-growing middleweight cities will contribute half of the global growth by 2025 and a significant portion of this will be from emerging markets with middleweight cities together contributing 45% of global growth by 2025. These locations represent ideal candidates for new grid and alternative energy options.
Areas recently hit by storms that have sustained severe weather damage to energy infrastructure may also constitute ideal places to begin engineering initiatives closing investment infrastructure gaps and improving Gross Domestic Product (GDP) performances at local and national levels and import/export efficiency. Yet only a small fraction of the energy sector has established Public Private Partnerships (PPP). These engagements can and should be utilized to a greater extent however in streamlining access to resources and global infrastructure global development.