A Third World Grid

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 11:03:56 +0000

From The New York Times this morning, a sobering article on our antiquated power delivery systems:

Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to 2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American Electric Power.

The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive rates up.

Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

Why am I not surprised? But more importantly, and echoing a recent comment by Minnesota Mom (and a capital idea of mine), it is okay for the government to authorize "emergency" deficit spending of $150 billion to prolong the debt-laced consumption rampage of the last several years, but it can't invest $60 billion to upgrade the power grid. OK, got it .