A modern, reliable, secure, affordable and environmentally sensitive national energy infrastructure is fundamental to our quality of life and energy future. Yet since 1982, growth in peak demand for electricity has exceeded the growth and development of our electric grid. This demand growth will continue due to a growing population; larger homes with burgeoning IT requirements and more elaborate appliances; and the growth of electric vehicles; as well as, the day-to-day energy required to power our hospitals, schools, industries and other necessities of life. The electricity we use today is delivered via an electric infrastructure built with 19th and 20th century technologies which are inadequate to keep pace with or accelerate the growth of a 21st century economy. Historically, underinvestment in the electricity transmission and distribution systems has weakened the supply, efficiency and reliability of the Nation’s electricity. A consequence of this weakening impact is the resultant power quality issues that are estimated to cost American business more than $100 billion on average each year. Furthermore, severe weather and other events persistently disrupt electricity, particularly at the local level. These constraints and the continual vulnerability to disruptions — from severe weather and a variety of other causes — impact more people and cost more money today than at any time in our history. For these and other reasons, a long-term commitment to expanding and improving the energy infrastructure is integral to our Nation’s progress.
With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on February 17th, 2009, President Barack Obama declared America’s commitment to moving toward a new, clean energy future. Under the Recovery Act, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) successfully managed the more than 330 Recovery Act projects. Of the $4.5 billion investment in the electric sector, $3.4 billion was used to to help industry accelerate the deployment of advanced technologies that are now keeping the lights on more reliably and efficiently and reducing costs. The smart grid is helping to prevent outages, reduce storm impacts, and restore service faster when outages occur. At the same time, consumers can now better manage their own energy consumption and save money because they have easier access to their own data. Utilities are also reaping major benefits, including a smaller environmental footprint, reduced peak loads, and lower operational costs. Recovery Act funding was also used to prepare the next generation of workers in the utility and electrical manufacturing industries and strengthen the capabilities for long-term analysis and planning in the three interconnections serving the lower 48 states. Funding also allowed states to hire new staff and retrain existing employees to ensure they can quickly and effectively review proposed electricity projects, supported the development of interoperability standards, and allowed 47 states, Washington DC, and 43 cities to develop energy assurance plans for natural disasters.
America’s new energy economy, based upon scientific discovery and innovation, emphasizes the preservation of a healthy environment and better management of available resources, including greater integration of renewable energy sources, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Equally important, this new economy will foster expanded partnerships and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and encourage participation of the American public, through progressive policy development, education, expanded energy-related choices and the creation of a green energy workforce that will advance jobs of the future and our Nation’s global competitiveness.