Investment in the grid is expected to make up the majority of industry investment over the next several decades. According to the Edison Electric Institute, the industry can expect $1.5 trillion in investments by 2030, two-thirds of which will consist of constructing and upgrading transmission and distribution facilities to maintain grid reliability. Increased implementation of energy efficiency and demand side management (DSM) measures is expected to grow to at least $100 billion, and in turn reduce the overall demand for new generation by 28 to 35 percent. Favorable legislation and potential carbon policies may further boost these figures.
Evidence of this upcoming grid boom is already coming to light. American Energy Power Co., for example, recently announced tentative plans to construct a $10 billion, 1,000- mile line to transmit power from the windy plains to the heavily populated Chicago area. And smart grid technology players have been pushing their technologies, with hundreds of thousands of advanced metering devices already deployed at customer sites. Rather than flooding a market with electricity, utilities can now gauge the precise demand of end users, leading to optimized flow and significantly fewer losses. Concerns such as Trilliant and Silver Spring Networks have recently received significant VC funding to launch pilot projects such as SmartGridCityTM in Boulder, Colorado, with mainstream applications likely in the near term.
Even energy storage, the holy grail of energy efficiency that allows energy to be produced at nonpeak hours (windy nights, for example) and dispatched at peak demand times (daytime), is slowly growing. Software developer GridPoint has partnered with Xcel Energy to install and maintain a 1-MW battery to be used as a direct wind energy storage device, storing enough energy to power 500 homes for seven hours. Large-scale deployment of such technology, however, is still many years away.