Copper Plays a Critical Role in the Future of the Grid
11 Dec 2017
As Washington D.C. debates the modernization of our energy infrastructure, Americans across the nation are far less divided.
It doesn’t make a difference to the construction and maintenance workers if they’re building a wind turbine or an oil pipeline – they’re more concerned that they have a job and that they’re providing a benefit to their community, said Betsy Beck, director of transmission policy for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) at the Climate Institute’s recent event, “Electrifying Our Future.” Speaking to clean energy technology manufacturers, utility officials and legal representatives, Beck built the case for the construction of the North American Supergrid (NAS or Supergrid).
The proposed Supergrid would be a largely-underground high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission network that would connect North America in a unified electricity market. Starting with the 48 contiguous U.S. states, the Supergrid would later expand to Alaska, Canada, and Latin America. Currently, the U.S. power grid is largely made up of three regional grids, much of the components of which are very vulnerable due to age and/ or above-ground positioning, and therefore pose a threat to the whole grid’s resilience and efficiency. These grids have few connections between them, forming a disjointed system incapable of maintaining a national power supply balance or easily sending power to areas in particular need, such as during an emergency.
A Climate Institute initiative, NAS would address these major concerns that threaten the security and well-being of the communities that rely on the power the grid supplies. As copper increases the reliability and efficiency of energy systems, it is the conductor of choice for the NAS project, with the Copper Development Association (CDA) serving as an important partner on the evolution of this initiative. The Supergrid would also be environmentally safe, incorporate additional national security measures to protect our power grid against physical or cyber threats, and create an enormous economic opportunity for workers and our local, regional and national economies.
The Climate Institute predicts that construction and operation of the Supergrid would create between 650,000 and 950,000 jobs yearly, both indirectly and directly, over a 30-year build period. Even after the build period ends, the Supergrid would employ a huge number of workers to maintain and update the grid. The estimated $500 billion cost of NAS would not only benefit workers and communities across the country, but it would also be privately financed upfront and be paid for consumer utility bills over time.
Yet securing our advanced energy future – and the security, resilience and economic prosperity that comes with it – will require federal leadership and acceptance that the technology itself is not in the future – it’s ready, waiting for us to put it to work for all Americans.
To learn more about the Supergrid, visit cleanandsecuregrid.org.