The Coming Wave of Transmission Innovations: The Future Grid

The Coming Wave of Transmission Innovations: The Future Grid

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the coming wave of transmission-related innovations and its implications for the electricity sector.

NEMA President & CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff

The basic technologies used to deliver electricity from generator to customer were largely unchanged from the 1880s to the 1980s. But technological advancements in the past few decades have significantly improved the efficiency, reliability, and security of that electricity delivery and will continue to do so.

NEMA members are developing many new and innovative technologies for energy storage, electricity transmission line efficiency, and overall system control. So how might these technological advances—and others—impact the grid of the future?

For one thing, the distinction between transmission and distribution is increasingly blurry; technologies such as microgrids, distributed generation, energy storage, and demand response in buildings are shifting the electricity system from a central-station model alone to a more distributed model.

Direct current—already used in many products in a building from computers to lighting and possibly the future sole power source into buildings—will be increasingly used to improve the efficiency of long-distance transmission and reduce losses from distributed generation sources, such as solar PV.

Energy storage will allow the electricity system to be optimized over the course of a day while also increasing the utilization rate of transmission and distribution lines, smoothing the integration of variable renewable energy resources, and providing backup power in the event of a power outage.

Transmission operators will need control systems with the capability to process millions of data points per second, because there will be a proliferation of sensors, such as phasor measurement units (PMUs), collecting data from the grid. In turn, operators will be able to move from still largely reactive to more proactive decision making.

Investments will continue to be needed in both long-distance transmission infrastructure and distribution infrastructure to deliver cost-effective, reliable, and clean electricity.

Contact Patrick Hughes to find out about how the NEMA Grid Modernization Leadership Council is working to reform state utility regulations to facilitate the future grid.

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