A Renewable, Reliable & Reimagined Grid

The electric grid has long been powered by monopoly-owned fuel-fired plants. Electricity consumers in monopoly territories typically cannot choose another provider. Given the right incentives, often through state regulation, electric utilities can reduce emissions and help consumers save. But in most cases, utilities profit by overbuilding and selling more electricity to consumers, even if less expensive and less polluting generation is available.

Utilities can save money by sharing resources through regional markets. Most utilities in the United States have now joined these markets, which reduce the amount of extra resources needed to maintain a reliable power system. Reducing overbuild cuts costs, as does deploying the least expensive resources available from a regional pool. And sharing resources over a broader region helps even out the variations in wind and solar generation. A larger regional grid therefore reduces the need to curtail renewable generation when electricity supply exceeds demand.

Technological advances have made wind and solar cost-competitive in these markets. Smart devices today enable customers to better control their energy usage and sell services back to the electricity grid. But because the rules that govern the power system were designed with large traditional power plants in mind, newer resources face unnecessary barriers that slow their growth.

One of the big challenges today is to ensure regulations keep up with technological developments in order to eliminate barriers to scaling up newer cleaner resources.