Engineers Warn of Future Electric Grid Underinvestment
April 28, 2012 • 10:34AM

The American Society of Civil Engineers yesterday released a report on the state and future of the nation's electricity infrastructure, warning that without "closing the gap" in capital investment in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power, the economic impact to the nation could be a cost to households of $61 billion by 2020, and $354 billion by 2040. Losses to businesses would be more than double that. The report projects that as a result, more than a half a million jobs could be lost. But the numbers cannot be taken literally, because this linear projection, as dreary as it is, pales in comparison to the reality.

The methodology used in the study assumes that current "trends" will continue. It puts forward a linear extension of the present level of investment in electricity infrastructure in to the future, as if that linear "trend" could continue as the economy disappears. It assumes that the rate of growth in electricity use will be 8% over the next nine years, or less than 1% growth per year, because that it what it has been in the most economically depressed regions of the country in the recent past. (In comparison, when the U.S. economy was growing in real terms in the 1960s, electricity use was increasing by 7% per year).

The most revealing among the tables and graphs in the report, taken from data and projections by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), is the expected reserve margins of NERC's eight regions. If current "trends" were to continue, by 2021, NERC projects, half of the regions would be below the 15% reserve margin which is considered prudent to ensure the reliable delivery of electricity, and by 2025, one region would be in negative territory, and only two remain above the 15%.

This crisis in the electic utility sector specifically has been created by the deregulation of parts of the electric utility industry, the attacks by the greens, which have prevented the construction of generating plants and transmission lines, and the mandatory introduction of decentralized "renewables" which has greatly increased the instability of the grid system. The only thing that has "saved" the United States from the rolling blackouts experienced by many Third World countries is the breathtaking collapse of the U.S. physical economy, drastically cutting growth in electricity consumption.

Look at the NAPAWA XXI report. Calculate how many nuclear and other power plants would have to be built immediately just to be able to start the cement plants, structural steel factories, machine tool shops, factories to build rail, and the rest of the manufacturing bill of materials in order to be able to build NAWAPA.

Those are the parameters that must inform how quickly the ageing electricity system will have to rebuilt, and vastly expanded.