The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave America its report card on infrastructure, and the results are not pretty. America’s overall GPA is a D+, and the energy infrastructure also gets a D+.
These results capture headlines and help to highlight the severe underinvestment in national infrastructure. But encouraging changes are quietly emerging from the electricity sector that should give us reason to be hopeful. Quite hopeful.
In their report, ASCE correctly indicates that adoption of smart grid technologies is on the rise: “For example, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the United States invested more than $4.5 billion for electricity delivery and energy reliability modernization. These funds were matched by more than $5.5 billion from local agencies and the private sector to fund smart grid and energy storage technologies across the country, with additional funding going toward workforce training.”
Modernizing the electric grid is not just about replacing aging equipment and wires. It is about changing the way we use electricity to improve our lives—with new services, higher efficiencies, economic growth, and better resilience. The NYS2100 Commission, convened by Governor Cuomo in response to Superstorm Sandy, seems to get it. They recognize that “one-to-one replacement is not the best option for long-term resilience building” and recommend that New York accelerate the modernization of electric systems and improve flexibility by upgrading to a more distributed smart grid network.
Investing in smart infrastructure may be the best investment we can make as a nation to ensure economic prosperity, sustainability, resilience, and public health and safety. The electricity sector is in a unique position to lead the nation in this regard, and we shouldn’t let a D+ hold them back a grade.