The existing electrical grid is becoming an “antiquated” system that will soon be made obsolete by technological progress. That’s the surprising admission from the CEO of NRG Energy, one of the nation’s largest power companies.
“There will come a day, in a generation or so, when the grid is at best an antiquated system to a completely different way of buying electricity,” David Crane said at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit.
Crane told an audience at the Summit that he thinks most homes will generate their own electricity within 30 years.
Not only does Crane think the grid is antiquated, but he also believes the primary challenge facing the energy industry is to get rid of it.
Energy companies, he said, should develop a new business model in which they provide solutions that allow people to generate their own electricity in homes and businesses.
Energy Company CEO: Current System Can’t Continue
“Everyone just stop a moment and think how shockingly stupid it is to build a 21st-century electric system based on a system of 130 million wooden poles,” Crane told the audience. “Stop trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, and start talking about, ‘How do we get rid of the grid?”
That would seem to confirm many Off the Grid News stories about the gird’s unreliability. Even the man who runs a power company believes that we can no longer depend on the grid.
Off the Grid News has reported that a number of large corporations, including Walmart, Safeway, Coca-Cola, Verizon and Google, are deploying off-grid sources of electricity.
Walmart just signed a contract to purchase 1,738 hydrogen-electric fuel cell units from a company called Plug Power Inc. Fuel cells are devices that convert hydrogen gas directly into electricity. The retail giant plans to use the fuel cells to power forklifts and other machines at its distribution centers. In other words, Walmart wants to keep its merchandise moving when the grid goes down.
Walmart, which already owns 535 Plug Power units, might spend up to $50 million on the new units, Reuters reported. PlugPower’s other customers include BMW, FedEx, Proctor & Gamble and Sprint. Plug Power is developing a fuel cell powered delivery truck for FedEx.
Report Card: Grid Unreliable
Last year, the grid’s reliability barely passed in a report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The overall rating on the reliability of America’s antiquated electrical system was a D+. Major power outages in the United States have grown from 76 in 2007 to 307 in 2011, according to ASCE. The major outage figures do not take into account all of the smaller outages which routinely occur due to seasonal storms.
The American Society of Civil Engineers power grid grade card rating means the energy infrastructure is in “poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life.” It further means a “large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration” with a “strong risk of failure.”
“America relies on an aging electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems, some of which originated in the 1880s,” the report read. “Investment in power transmission has increased since 2005, but ongoing permitting issues, weather events, and limited maintenance have contributed to an increasing number of failures and power interruptions. While demand for electricity has remained level, the availability of energy in the form of electricity, natural gas, and oil will become a greater challenge after 2020 as the population increases. Although about 17,000 miles of additional high-voltage transmission lines and significant oil and gas pipelines are planned over the next five years, permitting and siting issues threaten their completion. The electric grid in the United States consists of a system of interconnected power generation, transmission facilities, and distribution facilities.”