You have to spend money to save money. That's the tune being sung by energy industry experts, who this week announced that revamping the national power grid will cost $474 billion over the next 20 years but will save consumers $2 trillion. The new grid would enable two-way communication between power sources, allowing renewable energy projects to operate more effectively.
"The average electric bill will probably go up by about 50% if the smart grid is deployed," said Matt Wakefield of the Electric Power Research Institute. "If not, the average electric bill could go up by almost 400%."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that we should get going on a smart grid sooner rather than later. But how is it possible when much of the costs will be passed down to consumers, whose economic problems of the present outweigh future ones? The answer to this remains to be seen, but for now companies like Business Machines, GE, ABB, Siemens, Google, Toshiba, Cisco, and Microsoft are jockeying for position in the smart grid sweepstakes.
The U.S. currently gets 46% of its power from coal, 21% from natural gas, and 20% from nuclear plants. That means less than 5% is coming from renewable sources, and part of that has to do with an outdated grid that is not prepared for the massive shift the Obama administration has been talking about for so long. So fixing the grid is paramount to solving the energy, environmental, and health problems of today and tomorrow.
- Mitchell Flexo
Photo: The sun rises behind windmills at a wind farm near Palm Springs, CA. (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)