From issue: The Environment (Fall 2009)
Turn on the Lights
How to build a smart hemispheric energy grid for the twenty-first century.
How we collectively produce and deliver energy, while coping with the catastrophic threat of climate change, will define our century. The challenges faced by the international community are monumental and multi-faceted. They include stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing energy security through reducing the risk of economic disruption and nuclear weapons proliferation, and eliminating the lack of access to energy for over 3 billion people. An estimated $20 trillion in capital investment will be needed for energy infrastructure by the year 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). More specifically, to meet the immense challenge of climate change to energy policy, there must be dramatic changes in the historic trends of energy and electricity supply and use.
Our hemisphere can play a key role in addressing that global challenge by building a smart, sustainable, resilient, and secure power grid that stretches across the Americas.
The electric power sector has already assumed new prominence in the transformation of global energy production and delivery. It is a fundamental driver of economic growth and poverty reduction; a key sector for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through expanded renewable power; a strategic replacement for petroleum as the transport sector makes the long odyssey from liquid fuels to electricity; and an essential network whose robustness and resilience will need to be preserved in the face of malicious disruption or extreme weather events.
Building on these essentials will require a combination of innovative technology and enlightened public policy. But the ingredients for a smart grid network lie in the huge diversity of the supply base in different regions...