(3BL Media/Justmeans) We’ve been hearing about the potential wonders of the Smart Grid for several years now. It will save energy, make utility operations more streamlined, support renewables and save money for consumers. All these things are true, and they will be even more important in the years ahead as the impacts of climate change are felt more strongly. But blackouts are happening right now, and they are costing utilities money. That seems to be the primary driver for many power companies to begin investing in technology today.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), power outages cost US businesses $150 billion per year. The number of blackouts has increased 285% since 1984 and their duration, here in the US, is the longest among industrialized countries.
Why is that? There are two reasons. First, there is more power going through our electric grid than ever before. Second, and most important, the grid is getting old.
The U.S. electrical grid, once considered a marvel, is becoming a dinosaur. Going back over 60 years, some of the designs date back to Edison himself. It consists of some 7,000 power plants pushing electrons out over 450,000 miles of transmission lines, to businesses and homes that are interconnected by some 2.5 million miles of feeder lines. According to the Edison Electric Institute, it is worth $876 billion, though the value of what it produces is incalculable.
It was built for a time and a scale when things could be done manually. Meter readers would go from house to house reading mechanical meters, and linemen could inspect the lines to see where repairs were needed. Today, it has become too big and too indispensable for that.