The future of the power grid has arrived. Utilities, policy makers, and communities have agreed for years that the aging electric transmission and distribution (T&D) grid in the United States needs to be significantly upgraded to withstand the challenges of the future. Recent events and trends across a number of fronts have made the situation more urgent than ever:
- Customer needs are evolving, sharply accelerated by COVID-19. Operating the grid safely and reliably at a low cost has long been so-called table stakes for T&D operators. But that is no longer enough. Customers were already increasingly adopting digital and mobile channels—a trend that has been rapidly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent physical-distancing measures. With greater acceptance of working from home, access to reliable electricity service has become paramount. And the economic slowdown and uncertainty will further highlight the importance of T&D rate affordability.
- Increasing operational risks are changing the calculus for new investments. Climate change and cyberattacks pose increasing levels of risk—and they are here to stay. On the US climate front, for example, recent wildfires have affected California’s networks, blackouts have hit New York City, and coastlines have been battered by a plethora of catastrophic hurricanes. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report on climate risk , the chance of a once-in-a-century hurricane is likely to double in some parts of southeastern United States and triple in some parts of Southeast Asia by 2040.
- Distributed energy resources (DERs) are changing the grid’s value proposition. The T&D grid faces increasing pressure to integrate new technologies—such as electric vehicles (EVs), distributed solar generation, and energy storage—in a rapid, safe, and low-cost way. While grid planners, control-center operators, and engineers face significant challenges in managing the complexity of the two-way electric grid, they can take advantage of […]