Transmission: The “Electricity Highway”

Picture this: It’s a Monday morning, and it’s time to go to work. You wake up, take a shower and get ready for the day. You’re running a little bit late, so as you head out the door you hope that traffic isn’t bad and that you’ll make your 9:30 AM meeting. Driving out of your neighborhood, you head towards the highway that connects your town with the city where you work.

But there’s a problem: there’s no way to get on the highway!

Without an on-ramp, you can see the road and the cars flying by, but you’re stopped in your tracks and unable to get to work. The network that is supposed make it easier for you to access new places, opportunities and people is instead leaving you stuck in one place.

While this may be an implausible scenario for the modern U.S. highway system, it’s actually a common one for another vitally important piece of our country’s infrastructure – the electric transmission system. If you are a new, clean and domestic power source, this is the dilemma that you face. Every day, our antiquated grid, desperately in need of more “on-ramps,” is unable to deliver much of the electricity from next-generation power sources that Americans need.

What’s at Stake?

Our grid is long overdue for investment and upgrades. Begun in the early 1900’s when the power system consisted of large, isolated power plants, our current grid is ill-equipped to serve smaller, innovative solar or wind facilities. The majority of the existing system was built more than 30 years ago and has only received incremental investment since. Today, 70 percent of the lines and large power transformers are more than 25 years old, and we don’t have enough of them in areas of the country with the best new energy resources.

It’s an outdated infrastructure that supports an equally old and cumbersome business model – vertically integrated utilities. When a utility is vertically integrated, one company owns the power generation source (a coal plant) and the wires that transmit the power from the plant into your home (transmission).This type of system favors large, centralized generation sources and the conglomerates that own them. Modernizing our electricity “highway” by adding new capacity will enable new companies and energy sources access to the grid, offering consumers more choices and often, lower power prices.

Benefits of Modernization

A modern grid can do more than just deliver electricity. The benefits include:

A group of stakeholders in the Midwest have moved to create a regulatory system that will support a modern grid. Read more about how this system benefits one state in the region – Michigan.