Did our electric grid earn a passing grade?

Although the Department of Energy’s 187-page study didn’t assign the grid an actual grade, it’s safe to say that it would be passing.

Key Points

  • The Department of Energy just completed a study of the nation’s electric system.
  • It found that some things are going well and made some recommendations for improvements.
  • The energy industry is changing quickly, so this report aims to help policymakers, utilities and customers make good decisions. 

School is back in session, and no one is safe from the grading scale.

Not even our nation’s electric grid.

Some have called our grid one of the greatest inventions in history. Think of it as your class valedictorian who is a high achiever, can always be depended on to take on a new challenge, and even invites the new kids to the lunch table. The grid has welcomed newcomers like wind and solar, and thanks to recent investments, it’s doing a good job delivering energy to the people who need it.

Although the Department of Energy’s 187-page study didn’t assign the grid an actual grade, it’s safe to say that it would be passing.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry asked for the study to see how the grid is holding up with all of the massive changes in the energy industry. Specifically, the report focuses on the changes made in the past 15 years in technology and energy resources.

The report examined something that’s top of mind as parts of our country are dealing with major natural disasters: the electric system’s resilience.

“Recent severe weather events have demonstrated the need to improve system resilience,” the report said. “The range of potential disruptive events is broad, and the system needs to be designed to handle high-impact, low-probability events. This makes it very challenging to develop cost-effective programs to improve resilience at the regional, state, or utility levels.”

In short, there’s still work to be done to make sure vital energy services are available during disasters.

The report also outlines natural gas’s rise to become the top power generation resource, how variable renewable energy is impacting the mix, and that energy efficiency seems to be working as electricity demand growth flattens.

The Department of Energy staff emphasized that energy storage will be important to support more renewable resources to balance energy supply and customer demand. It recommends that continued investment and development will be needed in the future to continue providing reliable energy that can support modern electric system operations.

So although our valedictorian has a lot to be proud of, she still has a lot of work to do. And based on her past, I’m confident she’ll rise to the occasion.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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tony muniz
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2 months 1 week ago
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2 months 1 week ago