Electricity Transmission

A host of market forces has raised concerns about the uncertain future for the nation’s electric grid. Growing renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency improvements, combined with smart grid capabilities, however, can provide new options that can improve resiliency, reliability and financial incentives with distributed generation technologies. This session featured energy and grid experts who shared their expertise from a federal, regional, private sector and academic perspective and explored these complex issues before policymakers. They also discussed states' roles in meeting future challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s transmission and distribution system.

On Aug. 14, 2003, the lights went out throughout the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the U.S. and Ontario, affecting 50 million people. The outage, which started when tree limbs hit transmission lines in Ohio and cascaded across eight states, demonstrated the vulnerability of the electric grid system in the U.S.

Kansas City has made a big investment in the smart grid and legislators got the chance Friday to see just what that investment has created during a tour of the Green Impact Zone Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

A host of market forces has raised concerns about the uncertain future for the nation’s electric grid. Growing renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency improvements, combined with smart grid capabilities, however, can provide new options that can improve resiliency, reliability and financial incentives with distributed generation technologies. This session featured energy and grid experts who shared their expertise from a federal, regional, private sector and academic perspective and explored these complex issues before policymakers. They also discussed states' roles in meeting future challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s transmission and distribution system.

At this fun and informative event attendees were able to visit and tour Kansas City Power & Light’s state-of-the-art smart grid facility, which includes advanced generation, distribution and customer technologies. The site demonstrated how co-located renewable energy sources, such as solar power, feeds into the grid that serves roughly 14,000 commercial and residential customers.

With the electric power industry merging formerly separate power, digital and telecommunications systems into one platform—otherwise known as the smart grid—the United States is moving to cleaner energy and a more efficient and reliable power grid. In addition, with smart grid technologies provided wirelessly, it is now very easy for utilities to offer and manage prepaid plans, according to Greentech Media. But advancement of the technology will require support from legislators and even more grid modernization.

Growing consumer interest in net metering has led to a surge in rooftop solar installations and the use of distributed energy technology. However, potential challenges are developing for some utilities with existing state incentive plans to bolster net metering using traditional rate recovery models they believe do not fully recoup the value of services and reliability provided.

The reliability of power delivery to homes and businesses is perhaps one of the most critical and underappreciated aspects that make modern, 21st century living a reality. This week’s 10th anniversary of the Northeastern blackout that interrupted service for a week for more than 50 million people is a painful reminder of the cascading problems that can occur in bulk power markets and the need for continued grid modernization efforts.

The Chairman of the Western Governors' Association (WGA), Governor Gary Herbert of Utah, recently announced the publication of its 10 Year Energy Vision. The aspirational document outlines several broad goals and objectives "on which the governors all agree: achieving energy security; generating clean, affordable and reliable energy from a diversified portfolio of energy sources; increasing energy efficiency; having sufficient and reliable infrastructure; protecting wildlife, the environment and natural resources, and making the West the leader in energy education and innovation."

The general consensus is that federal and state regulators should not be designing national energy policies absent direction from Congress and state legislatures. Public opinion generally supports lower emission levels for generation units, increased support for energy conservation/efficiency, and no increase in electric rates. The apparent renaissance of natural gas production and nuclear generation--and the absence of a cost-effective clean coal technology--presage at least a short-term continuation of transitioning away from coal-fired generation.

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