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.