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The Smart Grid is Coming – Who Wins Who Loses

Summer days are here and air conditioners are running full blast in much of the United States.  Summer months tend to be periods of high electricity demand, particularly during bouts of intense heat waves. For example, the average home consumes 40% more electricity on a 103 degree Fahrenheit day compared to an average summer day of 83 degrees.

That means that utilities have to crank up electricity generation to meet demand, which can fluctuate wildly. With power plants running full tilt there is little room for error – blackouts are not uncommon when the grid is so stressed.

But the problem is compounded by the fact that the U.S. electricity grid is aging and increasingly showing signs of strain. The American power grid has over 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, fed by over 7,000 aging power plants. More to the point, over 70% of the nation’s transmission lines are over 25 years old, and the average power plant is over 30 years old.

As fragility of the grid has increased, so has the incidence of blackouts and weather-related power outages. The U.S. suffers $18 to $33 billion in costs each year from power outages related to severe weather alone. But the problem goes beyond weather – total costs for all outages reach as high as $150 billion a year across the country. And the problem has gotten worse over time. Power outages in the U.S. have skyrocketed by 285% since 1984.

And that should not come as a surprise considering…

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