Year 4, Month 11, Day 4: Careful With That Axe….

The Boston Herald showcases the local ubermensch of National Grid:

The utility is “fundamentally changing how we operate” to address four areas of the global energy challenge: aging infrastructure, a revolution in energy supplies, extreme weather conditions, and an aging workforce and skills gap, according to Holliday.

The revolution in energy sources is being driven by aging power stations and wires, a growing realization of the impacts of climate and the need to reduce carbon emissions, and shale gas, according to Holliday.

The impacts of increasing extreme weather on National Grid were evident in 2011, when it “learned some hard lessons” responding to Hurricane Irene and an October nor’easter. “Our … restoration efforts were, frankly, disappointing,” Holliday said. “Our planning didn’t account for the magnitude of the logistical challenges hitting our electricity and gas networks simultaneously, across three states and numerous regions. We now look at future scenarios, which include events we haven’t seen before, to make sure we are better prepared.”

We all better hope so. October 25:

If we were serious about preparing for the future, Americans would be doing more to restore our crumbling electrical grid. As demand rises and infrastructure deteriorates, we can expect to see more system failures over the coming decades. Factor in the extreme weather brought by planetary climate change and you have a recipe for disaster.

Our current distribution system was built when we believed that energy from fossil fuels was both unlimited and cheap — two assumptions that have been effectively disproven. Oil and coal are revealed to be very expensive indeed once we include the costs of externalities like environmental damage, public health impacts, and the slow-motion catastrophe of global heating. Revamping the power grid from the bottom up with an emphasis on renewable energy sources — while focusing tightly on conservation, flexibility, and system-wide resilience — will save us trillions of dollars in the coming decades.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 18: The Ladies Call Me ” ‘lectric Maaaan! “

The Washington Post notes that our grid is not really robust:

BOULDER CITY, NEV. — Drought and rising temperatures are forcing water managers across the country to scramble for ways to produce the same amount of power from the hydroelectric grid with less water, including from behemoths such as the Hoover Dam.

Hydropower is not the only part of the nation’s energy system that appears increasingly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as low water levels affect coal-fired and nuclear power plants’ operations and impede the passage of coal barges along the Mississippi River.

“We’re trying to manage a changing climate, its impact on water supplies and our ability to generate power, all at once,” said Michael L. Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s water-management agency. Producing electricity accounts for at least 40 percent of water use in the United States.

If you plug me in your socket, I’ll charge you like no man can. Sent September 11:

If America really believed in preparing for the future, we’d be scrambling right now to reimagine our crumbling electrical grid, for increasing demand and deteriorating infrastructure, combined with the likely consequences of the next century’s worth of catastrophic climate change, put both the integrity of the system and the safety of the nation at risk.

Our old power distribution system was predicated on the false notion that energy from fossil fuels is cheap and effectively infinite. Once we count externalities like public health and environmental impacts, oil and coal are surprisingly costly — and the double whammy of Peak Oil and a need to reduce greenhouse emissions means they cannot be the energy sources for an American future. It should be obvious: we’re going to have to rebuild the system from the bottom up, focusing on efficiency, flexibility, and decentralization. Doing it now will save us trillions of dollars later.

Warren Senders