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MIT Study: US Can Meet Power Grid Challenges of Future

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In 1882, Thomas Edison introduced the first power grid system in New York City. His direct current system initially served 59 customers in the Wall Street area at a price of $5 per kilowatt hour.

Since then, the technology has ballooned, and today every U.S. state and the District of Colombia has the luxury of the electrical power grid, which has modernized and forever changed the way we conduct our daily lives.

As the U.S. moves towards alternative energy sources such as solar and wind energy and strives to increase the amount of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road, recent speculation has raised the question as to if the power grid will be able to handle increased demands of the future.

According to a recent two-year study commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology‘s Energy Initiative, if certain measures are taken, the answer is yes.

The study was composed of 13 MIT faculty members, 1 Harvard faculty member, 10 graduate students and an advisory panel of 19 leaders from academia, industry and the government.

“The grid will face a number of serious challenges over the next two decades, while new technologies also present valuable opportunities for meeting these challenges,” the study says.

The report concluded the grid is adequate to meet today’s demands. However, it also said the measures the U.S. takes now will dramatically affect the grid throughout the next 20 years.

Some of the study’s key findings and recommendations include:

  • The diversity of ownership and regulatory structures within the U.S. grid complicates policy-making.
  • To combat cyber security threats, a single federal agency should be given the responsibility across the entire power sector, while increasing bulk and power and distribution systems.
  • Utilities should generate “fixed” network costs via customer charges that do not vary with the amount of electricity they use, but rather at set fees.
  • The electric and power industry should invest more revenue in the research and development of computational tools for bulk power system operations, methods for wide-area transmission planning, and procedures for response and recovery from cyberattacks.
  • Increased data and research on the grid should be compiled and made more easily accessible to help improve the decision making process in the areas of developing and improving the  grid.

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