Even in the worst of economic times, Americans need electricity. We might cut back on our use of it — and NEMA's members are doing their part to help reduce U.S. consumption (see, for example, Dain Hansen's blog entry of August 20) — but for the foreseeable future we'll continue relying on electricity for our comfort and safety.
That's why I applaud the approval by Virginia state regulators of Dominion Virginia Power's proposal to build a new transmission line through rural Virginia. Opponents of the proposal, primarily environmental and landowner groups, had proposed instead to rely on demand-response programs (to help consumers reduce their electricity consumption) and small-scale cleaner power plants. There's no doubt that these kinds of programs should and will play an enormous role in the future, particularly as we start to modernize the electrical grid. Problem is, plenty of new communities along the mid-Atlantic need electricity today, and if they don't get it shortages for the entire region are projected in the next couple of years.
There needs to be a middle ground here. With a growing population and thus growing electricity needs, new T&D lines will inevitably be needed. At the same time, in the coming years we'll see the spread of new energy-efficient technologies that will reduce many of the environmentalists' concerns — which means that more electrical use will not equate with higher energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.