The Technology versus Willpower battle has raged for over a century. Innovative minds have often pushed beyond what was considered logical and possible and, in doing so, changed everyday life. Yet, when internal the combustion engine (ICE), cellphone, and computer were introduced, people resisted the changes they represented.
But change did come about with these and other technologies. The 20th century, in fact, introduced the airplane, the rocket and other interplanetary probes, electronics, atomic power, antibiotics, and insecticides — all of which relied on electricity in one way or another. A consequence of this ever-expanding consumption of electricity in industrialized countries has been the linking of local systems to provide vast power grids, or pools.
We used to think that those grids were sorta miraculous, in that power could be shifted easily to meet changing local needs for current. No longer is that the case, especially with the expected mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). As the Washington Post pointed out recently, converting the nation’s fleet of automobiles and trucks to electric power is a critical piece of the battle against the climate crisis.
While much of today’s narrative about EVs focuses on auto manufacturers and new models, stories about another component of the conversion to all-electric transportation — the grid — need to be told. That is, will the US electric grid be able to overcome challenges and succeed in delivering the necessary clean energy to power all those EVs that are soon to be charging in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and public spaces?
The Biden administration has set goals for EVs to become half of all auto sales by 2030. New York State has enacted a ban on the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and trucks starting in 2035. A 2020 executive order directs California to require that, also by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state will be zero-emission vehicles. And those states are only the beginning.
The country’s 20th-century point-to-point grid, delivering energy over long distances, will not be adequate to serve this century’s needs. By 2030, according to a study from the Brattle group, the nation will need to invest as much as $125 billion in the grid to allow it to handle electric vehicles toward transmission line construction and upgrades. That’s $20 billion less than is contained in the current Congressional infrastructure bill.
As the author Amitav Ghosh said, “The climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and, thus, of the imagination.” The problem of the grid isn’t innovation or invention, as Common Dreams …….