Modernizing Our Western Electric Grid

Our western electric grid is large, old and in dire need of an upgrade to avoid catastrophic power outages. The grid is a web of wires strung on towers that delivers electricity from power plants to our towns, cities and industries.   As we plan and build our modern grid, a focus on clean energy will reduce future climate change impacts caused by greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon from coal power plants.

This September was the hottest on record across the globe and people responded by turning on their air conditioning. During hot months like this we are dependent on air conditioning and the electric grid that supports our ability to flip a switch and cool down.But our grid is aging, as evidenced by the Great Southwestern Blackout of September 2011.According to the New York Times:

“the largest power failure in California history left millions in Southern California, western Arizona and northern Mexico without electricity during one of the hottest weeks of the year.”

This incident reminds me that the grid is vulnerable and due for a remodel.

We need to add electric transmission lines to connect wind and solar resources to the grid.  We can improve the way the grid is operated by coordinating between regions in the West to improve access to clean energy, reduce the cost and improve reliability. These changes will make our grid more reliable and economical.

Updating our electric transmission system with common software and computerized controls will make it even more flexible, efficient and better able to handle hot months. Integrating renewable electricity production across more of the western grid stabilizes the output of domestic clean energy. This modernization and cooperation, along with innovation, will be the network for a healthy and economically sustainable future for westerners.

Jeremy Lewis

About Jeremy Lewis

Mr. Lewis joined the WRA Energy Program in October 2011. Most recently, he has been a clean energy specialist at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resource Department's Energy Conservation and Management Division in Santa Fe. Mr. Lewis developed the Sustainable Communities Corps at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and was the corpsmember development coordinator of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in Taos. He was a natural resource specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Austin, Texas and an agroforestry extension agent with the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Africa. Mr. Lewis has a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Studies from the University of Massachusetts and a Master of Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico.

6 thoughts on “Modernizing Our Western Electric Grid

  1. Load losses from an antiquated and outdated electricity grid are a major inefficiency and cause of adverse health outcomes. Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) and Transient Currents are two of the outcomes from a old and inefficient electricity grid. EMF increases exponentially as grid loads approach capacity. Transient currents are birthed by overloaded and ungrounded grids.
    In Colorado in 1989 Hearings were held on Powerline Overloads and EMF. “On Electricity”, an Investment Strategy by Fisk Investment, and “The Health Effects of Power Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields” Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) Report were introduced prior to the Hearings on Transmission Line Upgrades in Douglas County. ‘On Electricity’ emphasized electricity efficiency as the best ways to address leaking electricity (EMF). The OTA Report reviewed the three fold increase in cancers and the “definite” neurological effects of power frequency EMF. Leeper/Wertheimer found electric blankets cause a 7 fold increase in silent abortions. (In 1990, electric blankets were rewired dramatically lowering EMF. The 7-fold increase in silent abortions from extraordinarily high EMF exposures in the womb was recently confirmed by Dr. De-Kun Le, a senior researcher at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.)

    Both the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and Public Service Company of Colorado agreed and sponsored “Demand Side Management” and “Prudent Avoidance” as a result of the hearings. Upon appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the Decision finding the PUC did indeed have adequate reason for adopting a Policy of Prudent Avoidance, without definite and conclusive proof of adverse outcomes. The PUC held Rule Making Proceedings formally adopting “EMF Prudent Avoidance” and proceeded with hearings on “Demand Side Management”.

    The EPA’s Dr. Carl Blackman reported in NATURE “Unexpectedly, research funding for this area (EMF) dried up around 1990 and scientific advances dramatically slowed. A promising area of research fell by the wayside.” Advocates of Prudent Avoidance were outcast and domestic progress halted. That is, since 1990, nothing has been done.

    Publicly funded research in Russia has found extremely weak magnetic fields cause major changes in DNA – all you have to do is count chromosomes with a standard issue microscope. There is no doubt about it, very small fields are biologically active. In America, privately funded research has used the other end of the microscope and found nothing significant.

    Utilizing Canada’s health registry, Ontario Hydro in 1994 found dirty transients were the probable cause of adverse cancer outcomes from electricity grid EMF exposure. Dirty transients are used electricity that has been transformed from the power frequency to rf and MW frequencies. When not properly grounded, dirty transients are a major Public Health Concern. Read Dr. Sam Milham’s ‘DIRTY ELECTRICITY’.

    The benefits of upgrading our Electricity Grid Upgrade include improved health, increased efficiency, and better reliability. The Smart Grid is a radical improvement in for all three.

    OTA Report http: //
    1989 PUC Decision:
    MicroWave News Nov/Dec 1989 announcing Colorado’s Prudent Avoidance Precedence (page 6)

    • Thank you for your comment. Public health impacts associated with transmission lines are not raised enough and need to be fully integrated into local and regional transmission planning. While public health consequences of burning fossil fuels bring the most severe issues to grapple with, we must also consider public health issues related to transmission line technologies.

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