States Move Ahead On Power Grid Modernization


Four states – Kentucky, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington — will participate in a new effort to help modernize the electric power sector. Through the project, state teams will design action plans around issues such as grid modernization, resiliency and environmental stewardship. The initiative is backed by the National Governor’s Association.

Rhode Island is the first state in the group to launch a formal modernization effort as part of the NGA initiative.

The project follows a report issued by the NGA in November, which looked at possible response plans for grids during extreme power outages. In that report, the NGA’s Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy and Transportation Division concluded that the nation’s power grids are functioning well, but are vulnerable to extreme weather or other events that could lead to prolonged outages.

The NGA’s effort comes alongside a federal push at the US Department Energy, which announced funding for its Grid Modernization Initiative earlier this year. That project, which is broader in scope than the NGA’s, is focused on developing new energy transmission technology and also finding solutions to secure power grids.

Apart from coordinated efforts like the one at NGA, some states are moving ahead on their own. Last week, policymakers in Iowa released an energy plan that included grid modernization as a core component along with increasing the development of renewable energy sources in the state. And yesterday, Eversource Energy, a power provider in Massachusetts reported that the company has spent $940 million on grid modernization throughout the Commonwealth.

Eversource serves approximately 3.6 million customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and is working on improving reliability with its modernization work.

Microgrids are also emerging as a go-to for state and local governments that are working on grid improvements. As CivSource has previously reported, microgrids are new technology that can add a secondary grid to an existing power supply. The microgrid will then turn on if the main power supply goes offline unexpectedly – sort of like a generator system on steroids.

The use of microgrids is only expected to grow. A total of 124 microgrids with a combined capacity of 1,169 megawatts (MW) were operating across the nation as of July 2015, according to Pew Research. Pew predicts that microgrid capacity will grow to exceed 2,850 MW by 2020, an increase of almost 145 percent. Market revenue is expected to soar as well, rising nearly 270 percent to total over $3.5 billion.