America’s electric grids have undergone astounding transformations over the past decade.
From grid modernization to the shale gas revolution, and from energy efficiency programs to powering electric vehicles, the grid is more dynamic than ever, and the pace of change will not slow anytime soon.
Tremendous shifts have occurred in our power generation fleet to meet changing load demands, economics and compliance with sweeping environmental regulations, which have led to significant retirements of large coal and nuclear power plants. Further, we’ve seen a tremendous influx of renewable power generation as well as surging distributed energy options that must be integrated into the grid.
This presents both opportunities and challenges in keeping America’s lights on and cell phones charged. It also highlights the need for a robust conversation about the best path forward.
America is at a pivotal point. Policy decisions made now will have lasting impacts on families and businesses for generations—which makes the Department of Energy’s (DOE) forthcoming electric study a timely basis for this discussion.
While the full study is set to be released any day now, the limited portions we have seen thus far have already generated significant—and welcomed—public debate about its findings.
A robust, sincere and realistic dialogue around the future of our electric grid will undoubtedly produce better long-term results for families and businesses than policy decisions made in a vacuum—if we all keep the end user in mind.
That’s because the end user—families and small businesses—repeatedly seem to get lost in much of the political and strategy rhetoric when discussing energy policy. It’s easy to forget, however, that the sole existential driving force for energy markets is them. Steel manufacturers must be able to run their furnaces and smelters. Data network providers must be able to power their massive computing systems. And parents need to be able to cook for their children. These are among the many reasons energy markets exist.
Accordingly, all interested parties must engage in a rational conversation about the results of DOE’s soon-to-be-released electric grid study and avoid the urge to latch on to tweet-sized bites of rhetoric just to advance an agenda.
Families, seniors and consumers need grid predictability and security, not just near-term posturing based on a PR campaign.
And it’s only through robust dialogue that we’ll truly give credence to an all-of-the-above grid approach that will give families and businesses access to the affordable, reliable energy supplies they need and deserve.
David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).
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