Rewiring the U.S. electric grid to handle more wind and solar power won’t be cheap or easy, according to a study published Wednesday by the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (AII).
The study found that the U.S. power grid can’t easily be replaced by a distributed smart grid that environmentalists favor. Efforts to update the electric grid to better handle variable energy output from wind and solar power haven’t been effective and would be expensive.
“It is probably a trillion dollar asset,” Brigham McCown, chairman of AII, told reporters during a press conference. “People for decades have talked about the need to modernize the grid and upgrade it, but quite frankly that hasn’t happened.”
“It is not gonna be cheap,” McCown added.
AII’s report calls for increased public and private investment in grid-related infrastructure, which they say is the only way for wind and solar sources to become a significant portion of the electricity mix. Wind power generated 5.6 percent electricity while solar provided 0.9 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Some folks have come out with reports suggesting that we don’t need a grid anymore, our research shows that’s not the case,” McCown said. “I think there’s going to have to be a combination of public investment and private investment.”
“As ratepayers, we have to be okay with the fact that we’re gonna spend more to have electricity generated from other [green] sources and ensure the stability of the grid,” McCown said.
AII didn’t estimate the exact price of investments needed to support new solar and wind power, but did say it would likely be expensive.
“We can’t put any sort of price tag on this,” Patrick Currier, an AII policy expert involved in the research, told reporters.”What the paper is trying to do is put forward some specific investments in technologies that are out there.”
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