Recently. a devastating storm swept through the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, and more than 2 million people found themselves without electricity for days. In response, the Center for American Progress released “How to Keep the Lights On,” which outlines the smart investments and clean energy solutions needed for more reliable electricity.
“The best way to reduce outages in the future is to invest in underground lines, smart meters and low-carbon power,” says Richard W. Caperton, CAP’s Director of Clean Energy Investment. Some of the investments that could result in a more resilient and reliable electric system include:
• Smart meters—devices in consumers’ homes that monitor their power use and communicate with the utility—which can make it much easier for line crews to respond to outages without waiting for consumers to call the utility or if telecommunications systems are damaged.
• More power generation distributed around the grid, rather than all of it being centralized in large power plants. When we rely on centralized power plants, damages to just one line can cause massive outages. While some people help by buying a diesel-burning generator (which pollutes the air and has very high fuel costs), many people could make a much smarter investment by putting solar panels on their rooftops.
• Investments in the clean energy resources that will help reduce the greenhouse gas pollution causing climate change, instead of just investing in the electric grid. As climate change leads to increases in severe weather, we’ll inevitably see more outages similar to the one currently afflicting the Mid-Atlantic.
In addition to putting more of our new lines underground, to make them impervious to falling trees, utilities should all follow the guidelines for tree trimming laid out in May by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This would help prevent trees from falling onto wires in storms. They also have a communications role and need to keep consumers informed with timely and reliable updates on outages and they need to make sure that new technologies they install on the grid such as new transformers improve reliability.
Government has a regulatory role in enforcing reliability standards. Because of the unique structure of the utility industry, government officials approve most major utility expenses. However, consumers also have a role, too. We can make our own investments in the grid by putting solar panels on our rooftops or installing some other type of clean energy resources.
For more information, visit www.americanprogress.org.