Blackouts are on the rise across the United States, and there is a clear correlation between extreme weather and these power outages. In fact, according to Climate Central, 83% of blackouts in the US are caused by weather-related events. That means one thing, the US electric grid is not ready.
The start of the US electric grid was constructed in 1882, and while it has undergone several transformations over the years, is pretty outdated. More importantly, its various upgrades were not made with the climate that exists today.
And potentially even more importantly, not built with the climate of the future in mind.
Simply put, the extreme heat of the summer and the cold events of the winter are impacting the grid. When it is very hot, more customers use air conditioning, which drives up electricity demand. The same is true for heat in the winter.
The grid has demonstrated that it is incapable of responding to the higher demand. Thus, things need to change.
How Can the US Electric Grid Evolve?
It’s clear the data suggest there’s a problem with the electric grid, but how can we fix it? One of the most effective ways to strengthen the electric grid is to implement microgrids.
Microgrids are smaller local grids that can provide power to a community when the electric grid falters. This can help keep the lights on when disaster strikes.
For instance, when a large storm hits the east coast, multiple states are impacted, even those not directly in the storm’s path. That’s because the grid is connected. By having a microgrid in place, other regions can keep the lights on.
For reference, a microgrid could be powered by just about anything from generators to solar panels. It’s effectively a backup grid for emergency use only.
Another aspect that utilities need to work on is offering customers an incentive to not use a lot of power during these events. For example, during heat waves, you may be asked to use less power by setting the thermostat higher than you normally would.
The truth is, residents, don’t have to listen. And honestly, many don’t. One solution is to actually incentivize residents to use less energy and follow those guidelines by providing savings and discounts. To do this, smart metering needs to be more widely available.
Customers need to see their energy usage in real-time. It’s important data that most customers don’t have access to in real-time.
Smarter And More Efficient Electric Grids Curb Emissions
There are three main steps to delivering energy. Generation, transmission, and distribution. Our electric grid is not 100% efficient, so some energy is lost during these steps, but have you ever wondered how much?
Well, if you think it’s a small amount, you would be dead wrong. In reality, 66% of primary energy is lost during this process. Improvements to how we distribute energy will significantly lower the amount we need because less of it will be wasted.
In fact, increasing efficiency might be the best way to curb emissions after switching to renewables.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.