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Tags: gridgate | electricity

'Gridgate' Keeps Electricity Costs High While Endangering World Climate

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Paul F. deLespinasse By Tuesday, 27 October 2020 10:29 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

"Gridgate" isn't a household word, but it should be. The Trump administration has quietly nixed an opportunity to save Americans money and protect the world climate.

America runs on electricity. We don't pay much attention to how it is produced or how it gets to us. But behind the convenience at our nearest electrical outlet lies a vast, complicated network of generators and wires. Or perhaps I should say three such networks.

The administration has prolonged the separation of the continental United States into three separate electrical grids. This will damage the world's climate and keep consumer costs for electricity higher than necessary.

Two of our three major grids — eastern and western — are separated by the Rocky Mountains. Texas has its own grid. Power generated in each of these three areas can flow to customers within that area, but not to users in the other two grids.

Several years ago electrical engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy finished studying the costs and benefits of connecting the whole country into a single grid. They concluded that the benefits of a single grid would vastly outweigh conversion costs.

A single grid for the U.S. would allow areas facing unusually high demand during heat waves to import electricity from other regions rather than suffering blackouts. It would make renewable energy sources more attractive: Regions producing more wind or solar energy than they currently need could export the surplus to other regions, allowing these other regions to reduce the burning of gas and coal.

It would benefit consumers because utilities could buy their power from the cheapest sources anywhere in the country. The daily maximum demand for electricity comes at different times in different time zones, so a unified grid would reduce the number of extra generators needed for only a few peak hours a day. This too would save consumers money.

The proposed unification into a single national power grid sounded like a no-brainer. But when top political appointees at the Department of Energy got wind of it they prohibited publication of the study.

According to Peter Fairley, publication was suppressed because the engineers' study proved that a single grid for the U.S. would make renewable energy more attractive. This in turn would accelerate the decline in the use of coal to generate electricity.

The reasons for the administration's hostility to renewable energy are clear. Donald Trump has appealed to coal country voters by promising to "bring back" coal. A few electoral votes here, a few there, and pretty soon you might win an election. So the personal benefit for Trump was clear enough.

But it is irresponsible for any president to allow personal political interests to override policies that would protect the climate and also save electricity consumers a lot of money. People often say that we can't afford to cut greenhouse gases, but a unified grid would actually save us all money.

To minimize additional damage to the world's climate, much of which is "baked in" by carbon dioxide already released into the atmosphere, we are going to have to replace oil, coal and gas with renewable energy (and possibly, if necessary, by atomic energy.)

As I have explained elsewhere, without economical storage for nighttime and bad weather, we will need to connect not just the United States but the entire world into a single electrical grid. Unifying the U.S. power grid would be a helpful step in this process. European countries are already integrating their respective national grids into a single system.

We need to move to renewable energy as rapidly as possible. By sabotaging the work of engineers at the Department of Energy, the Trump administration threatens the future world climate and costs American consumers money. "Gridgate" is therefore both a wasted opportunity and a major scandal.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan oregon, and a number of other states. Read Prof. Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.

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The Trump administration has quietly nixed an opportunity to save Americans money and protect the world climate.
gridgate, electricity
Tuesday, 27 October 2020 10:29 AM
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