In many parts of the United States, the transmission lines that provide us with reliable, low-cost electricity are rapidly aging, which can lead to increased blackouts and brownouts. Some of the nation’s 450,000 miles of transmission lines are 50 or more years old. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 70% of our transmission lines and transformers are at least 25 years old.
As our economy becomes more dependent on electricity, the demands we place on the electric grid will intensify, leading to increased blackouts and brownouts. A new report, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Electricity Infrastructure, released by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) predicts that power outages will cost American businesses and households almost $200 billion by 2020. On the other hand, investing just $11 billion per year in electricity infrastructure can help protect 529,000 jobs, $656 billion in personal income, $496 billion in GDP, and $10 billion in U.S. exports.
While investment in the electric grid has increased slightly in the past decade, we are still underinvesting in our transmission infrastructure. In order to connect remote renewable energy resources, like wind in the Midwest and solar in the Southwest, we need to build the infrastructure to deliver that power to the cities and towns where it is needed. You can’t put wind in a railcar, and you can’t put the sun in a pipeline – you need transmission lines to deliver these renewable energy resources to market. New regulations, such as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 1000 and the Department of Energy’s Memorandum on Grid Modernization in the Power Marketing Administrations, will help spur the investments needed to develop a 21st Century clean energy grid.
To read the full ASCE report, and to view infographics summarizing their findings, click here.