In the face of the winter storm that hit the nation, Texans suffered a series of rolling blackouts as some 50 fossil-fueled power plants (coal and natural gas) shut down due to frozen pipes and other problems. In the face of readily available information, including from Texas' own grid-managers (ERCOT), there is a bevy of fossil-foolish commentators falsely asserting that 'greening' efforts are to blame for freezing Texans. For example,
In one of those outrageous attacks on American exceptionalism, The Report Card for America's Infrastructure, prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gives the US Electric Grid a rating of D. Its summary says the following:
The U.S. power transmission system is in urgent need of modernization. Growth in electricity demand and investment in new power plants has not been matched by investment in new transmission facilities. Maintenance expenditures have decreased 1% per year since 1992. Existing transmission facilities were not designed for the current level of demand, resulting in an increased number of "bottlenecks," which increase costs to consumers and elevate the risk of blackouts.
Military installations are almost entirely reliant on a fragile and vulnerable commercial power grid, placing critical defense and Homeland security missions at risk of extended outage.
The Department of Defense views (and did even during the Bush Administration) the antiquated electrical system as a threat to national security -- which extends well beyond the risk to military bases.
When it comes to economic impact, the best (rough) estimate of annual cost to the U.S. economy due to power outages: $100 billion or nearly 1 percent of the economy (pdf: page 4). For a fraction of that cost, investment in modernization of the grid (smartgrid and otherwise) would nearly eliminate that cost and provide other benefits (such as more efficient use of energy) that would boost the economy.
In other words, improving the U.S. electrical grid would improve national security, improve the economy, and improve our environmental situation.
Valuable reading: Gail E. Tverberg, The U. S. electric grid: will it be our undoing?, The Oil Drum
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