The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Study on the Future of the Electric Grid shows that with new policies, U.S. electric grid could handle expected influx of electric cars and wind and solar generation. However, implementing some policies will be hard work and totally upset the way electric power is managed and reguated in North America.
Also, how much time do we really have to do this? We have been talking about these issues in the U.S. for years. As the report shows, the U.S. is a global leader in the number of electric power interruptions so we think the recommendations need to be adopted and implemented soon or we will be in for power interruptions that will have severe economic impacts.
We also noticed that the natural gas sector is not among the policy initiatives when it comes to dealing with cybersecurity threats. Any disruption of the interstate and intrastate natural gas pipeline and storage systems will seriously impact the electric grid, so not including natural gas under the cybersecurity umbrella is a mistake.
The report makes a lot of sense, but it really states the obvious. Many of our posts touched on these issues, but used different names, specifically the growing rivalry between the federal and state governments to regulate electric power and specifically approve interstate power lines. Below is a summary of report's recommendations that will be familiar to those who follow energy issues and not doubt be looked at by the candidates in greater detail in the upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections.
- To facilitate remote renewables, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should be granted enhanced authority to site major transmission facilities that cross state lines. Note, this agency sites interstate natural gas pipelines already.
- To cope with cybersecurity threats, a single federal agency should be given responsibility for cybersecurity
preparedness, response, and recovery across the entire electric power sector, including both bulk power and distribution systems. As we said above, natural gas pipeline systems have to be a part of this. Presently the Department of Transportation has oversight of pipeline safety while the Department of Energy and Homeland Security share responsibility for the electric power sector.
- To improve the grids efficiency and lower rates, utilities with advanced metering technology should begin a transition to pricing regimes in which customers pay rates that reflect the time-varying costs of supplying power.
- To improve utilities' and their customers' incentives related to distributed generation and energy conservation, utilities should recover fixed network costs through customer charges that do not vary with the volume of electricity consumption.
- To make effective use of new technologies, the electric power industry should fund increased research and development in several key areas, including computational tools for bulk power system operation, methods for wide-area transmission planning, procedures for response to and recovery from cyberattacks, and models of consumer response to real-time pricing. We wish the new players would enter this energy sector to provide much needed technology.
- To improve decision making in an increasing complex and dynamic environment, more detailed data should be compiled and shared, including information on the bulk power system, comprehensive results from “smart grid” demonstration projects, and standardized metrics
View and download the entire MIT Study of the Future of the Electric Grid