The 2013 Infrastructure Report Card for the U.S. was released earlier in March, cataloging a number of problems with the structural systems of the nation as a whole. Overall, the country received a rating of D+, with the country's energy systems contributing to the low score by receiving a grade of D+ as well.
All told, this feedback from the American Society of Civil Engineers does paint a scary picture of our future, but as far as the nation's energy infrastructure is concerned, ASCE's predictions seem reasonable enough. In order to get our nation's energy grid up to the standards that will allow it to exist without significant problems in the next few decades, the 2013 report claims aggressive steps must be taken now rather than later.
The report's findings
In short, the energy grid across the U.S. is in pretty poor shape. Most of that is a result of the system's age. Some aspects of the grid, on the East Coast in particular, have been in use since the 1880s! All across the country, the issues facing the grid stem from age and the little room that exists for growth of the system's capacity. As it is, many areas of the grid are congested and unable to deliver the amount of energy needed to keep everyone supplied with energy at all times. According to the ASCE report, these problems are most often visible in the Northeast states and Southern California.
These points of congestion are one issue, but there are also problems with insufficient energy supply in areas like Texas. In the Lone Star state, people are occasionally subjected to rolling blackouts because there simply isn't enough electricity to go around. These supply shortages also have the negative impact of producing price spikes in Texas' deregulated electricity market.
In addition to general supply and distribution issues, the U.S. energy grid is still struggling to find ways to most effectively implement new green technologies. Industry experts are actively working to come up with solutions to storing more wind and solar power for use during peak periods that don't necessarily coincide with ideal generation periods for these technologies.
Overall, ASCE is calling for a substantial increase in funding for all areas of the national energy infrastructure - totaling in the tens of billions of dollars.
ASCE featured a transmission upgrade project from western Pennsylvania to Virginia as one of three success stories for 2013's energy report. Pennsylvania continues to be an important player in the national energy system with a continuously increasing output of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation and the state's emphasis on aggressively pursuing renewable resources.