As we march down this technological road with increasing haste there are two definite areas of our society where incredible change must happen. It is no longer a matter of letting nature takes its own course or for businesses in these two areas to be left to their own devices. There is too much at risk and our timetable to make the needed societal changes is growing shorter.
These two seemingly disparate areas are transportation and power and rather than being the separate and distinct entities we think they are they in fact are interdependent on each other. This interdependency is only going to increase as we move forward the question is are these two segments of our society ready for our overall changing society.
While much attention is being focused on the transportation industries where some are facing a very bleak future the fact is that our power delivery systems are in much rougher shape.
After all this is the delivery system which in 2003 brought much of the northeast United States and the province of Ontario in Canada to its knees because of a blackout caused by a single event which then cascaded out of control. Much of the affected areas were without power for the better part of three days which I can attest to personally given that I live in Ontario.
It was a cascading effect that ended up shutting down approximately 100 power stations and left a lot of people questioning whether our power grid is capable of maintaining the current user needs – let alone an increasing need in the future as we look to alleviate some of our transportation problem by moving to electric based vehicles.
This doesn’t even take into account the natural increase of need due to a growing population which in the U.S. has caused many states to require power utilities to add an aggregate of nearly 40 gigawatts of clean energy production by 2030. Until then much of our power will come from the typical sources of hydroelectric production, coal fire production and to a lesser degree nuclear powered energy. there is much talk of trying to broaden our power production to include alternate methods like wind, solar and a myriad of other still experimental methods.
The problem is that all this power is going to be funneled into a power grid system that is antiquated at best, broken at the the worst. It is one thing to have power being generated; regardless of whether it is clean or dirty, but if the delivery mechanism is faulty, or ineffective and making that available power progressively expensive to the customers then all the power generation in the world won’t make one bit of difference.
As much as there might be pressure to radically change our transportation systems; whether they be public transportation or revamping the automotive sector, there is an even more urgent need in my mind for an immediate rebuilding of our power grids system(s). While much of the grids are a state; or provincial, regulated system I believe they need to become more of a federally mandated policy and oversight. The whole power network is no longer just something that affects a small portion of people; especially when they start crashing.
I believe that we to realize that we need a massive works project that will build out a fully planned nationwide power grid system; not just a collection of individually controlled grids. Yes this is going to cost a lot of money which as Craig Rubens at the Earth2Tech blog points out will cost $2 trillion for a fully green power grid
In order to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standards of states, utilities will need to add an aggregate of nearly 40 gigawatts of clean energy generation by 2030. And to get all that power to customers, a total investment of as much as $2 trillion into transmission and distribution networks will be required, according to a report released today by energy consultancy The Brattle Group.
The question is then do we have the political will in both the U.S. and Canada to undertake such a massive rebuilding of one of our most essential services. As well we have to ask ourselves what will happen if we don’t. I don’t think it is a matter of when will we do this anymore, but more of how soon can we start.
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