Clean | Green | Sustainable

Power to the People: Wired’s 7 Ways to Fix the Grid

Posted by Matthew Koehler on March 26, 2009

Filthy coal-fired power plants spew carbon into the air. A mish-mash of 9,200 generators streams vital electrons along 300,000 miles of aging, inefficient transmission lines and one untrimmed tree in the wrong place could plunge a quarter of the country into darkness. This is our electric grid. A whopping 40 percent of all the energy used in the US – be it oil, gas, wind, or solar – is converted into electrons that travel over these wires. Any attempt at energy reform must begin here. But this keystone of our 21st-century economy has yet to advance much beyond its 19th-century roots. Considering how wasteful, unresponsive, and just plain dumb the grid is, it isn’t surprising that outages – which have been increasing steadily over the past quarter century – cost us $150 billion a year. The real shock is that the damn thing works at all.

So opens Brendan I. Koerner’s essay Power to the People in the new April issue of Wired. As someone who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about our electrical grid, I found Koerner’s essay quite interesting and Wired’s list of 7 ways to fix the grid simple yet promising.

1. Generate Electricity Everywhere
2. Deliver Clean Energy to Distant Cities
3. Store Power in Super Batteries
4. Monitor the Electrons in Real Time
5. Trade Electricity Like Pork Bellies
6. Think Negawatts, Not Megawatts
7. Make Conservation Simple (and Easy)

As Koerner writes, “If we’re serious about remaking our energy infrastructure, we’ll need to encourage these kinds of fixes and replace our current system of misplaced incentives. Right now, that system encourages everyone involved – customers, utilities, and private industry – to neglect the grid. We have to give those stakeholders new reasons to turn on, engage, and transform.”

So do your part as an energy consumer and give the essay and the 7 steps a once-over. Better yet, share this information and these ideas with your elected officials to help bring our energy grid into the modern world.


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