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Why are Electricity Grids a Challenge for the US Transition?
Blog...Why are Electricity Grids a Challenge for the US Transition?

Why are Electricity Grids a Challenge for the US Transition?

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Why are current electricity grids in the United States an issue for the clean energy transition, how can the U.S. make an effort to adapt electricity grids to help facilitate the transition to the use of renewable energy sources, and how soon can these changes be made?
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In the midst of the transition to the use of clean energy and to reduce the current dependency on fossil fuels, the U.S. is making its best attempt to start the transition – but could electricity grids prove to be the biggest roadblock in the United States achieving a cleaner energy status?

There are several reasons why the country’s current electricity grids could keep the U.S. from transitioning to the U.S. of clean energy. 

Why are electricity grids problematic, how can the U.S. make an effort to adapt electricity grids to help facilitate the transition to the use of renewable energy sources, and how soon can these changes be made?

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What are electricity grids?

Electricity grids, also known as an electrical grid or power grids, are a multifaceted system that help to provide and transmit electricity – such as to buildings or residences over long distances. If it weren’t for electricity grids, you wouldn’t be able to watch your favorite T.V. show on Netflix or have overhead lighting in the shower.

Many homes, especially in the U.S., require an abundant amount of electricity to keep all appliances running: such as the refrigerator, surround sound systems, or the dishwasher. Today’s electricity grids are not as equipped or efficient to supply or transmit this much power.

Electricity grids work by transmitting power from the facility it is generated at to an end user – such as the light switch in your kitchen or the cord that powers your computer to work remotely. In order to provide power at any given time, electricity grids are transporting power 24/7 – so that all buildings, schools, and houses do ever go without power.

👉 In our modern world, electricity grids are one of the most impressive and pivotal components in today’s society. Think: many people couldn’t work remotely, pay their bills, or go to school without electricity. 

Here are some of the main components of electricity grids:

  • Generating Power: Electricity grids all start with producing electricity at some sort of power facility – often power plants. This can be done with finite resources such as coal or gas, or renewable energy sources such as wind turbines or solar power
  • Transmitting Power: One of the main jobs of an electricity grid is to transport the power, often through a high-voltage transmission line, to its end destination. These high-voltage transmission lines are better known as, “power lines” – or the long wires on tall poles you often see off the street while driving somewhere.
  • Substations: In addition to power lines and electricity grids, there are substations – which help to ensure the flow of electricity is consistent and viable for an even distribution of power.
  • Distribution: Distribution refers to the power lines which branch out from substations and deliver electricity to businesses, residences, schools, and more. Distribution lines are often on utility poles or underground as they operate at lower voltage levels than other transmission lines. 
  • Transformers: Transformers are essential to electricity grids as they are used from substations to the distribution systems to convert the current voltages and make sure there are on electricity shortages or power outages for the end user. For example, think of when you use an electricity outlet power converter when you travel abroad – transformers help to make sure the correct power voltage is delivered to the end user.
  • Smart Grid Technology: Some more modern electricity grids have made use of smart grids – which help to improve communication systems, sensors, and the overall management of electricity to help ensure that the transportation and distribution of electricity remains efficient with the option to integrate the use of renewable energy sources.

👉 One of the main jobs of electricity grids is to balance electricity supply and demand to ensure the electricity grid remains stable.

However, it’s important to note that all electricity grids are different and are likely to function differently depending on location and how interconnected the electricity grids are in each country. In addition to geographic location, infrastructure and the available technology can also have an impact on electricity grids.

Why are electricity grids a roadblock in the U.S. transitioning to the use of renewable energy?

Ultimately, electricity grids may prove to be the biggest roadblock to the U.S. successfully transitioning to the use of clean energy. 

This is largely in part for the need for massive amounts of money, or billions of dollars worth of investments in order to decarbonize the country’s current electricity system. However, the problem is that not even money would be enough to improve the current electricity grids – it’ll also take intense monitoring and analyzing of current electricity grids to determine how these electricity grids and transmission lines could be redesigned to be more efficient and better suited for the clean energy transition. 

👉 Two of the biggest roadblocks concerning electricity grids and the U.S. clean energy transition are finding the money to pay for the transition and developing ways to make the construction process faster – all without causing harm to the environment.

However, there are a handful of more reasons why current electricity grids in the U.S. won’t be fit for the country’s attempt to transition to the use of clean energy.

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What are some examples of disasters that have occurred with electricity grids?

Electricity grids aren’t problematic at their pique on their own, but with the help of other predicaments caused by climate change – such as natural disasters that have occurred like a snowstorm, hurricane, or tornado

With all of the repeated natural disasters that have occurred in the previous year, electricity grids have proved themselves insufficient in a world that is battling climate change. Therefore, the need to adjust electricity grids isn’t only out of a need to transition to the use of clean energy – but also out of necessity for safety when natural disasters strike (as climate change may make them occur more frequently and furiously). 

An example is when a winter storm left millions of people in Texas without power in 2021, resulting in both Texas and California needing to take emergency precautions to ensure that no heat-waves induced by electricity grids occurred. Even worse, the electricity grids could have caused a state-wide blackout – or at minimum, periodic shortages of power.  

👉 Electricity grids are becoming more and more unreliable in conjunction with the weather conditions being presented alongside climate change worsening.


This worsening reliability of electricity grids is the result of rapidly changing conditions on both the supply and the demand side of the grid-balancing equation. In short, the supply-and-demand for electricity grids is making it difficult for current electricity grids to sustain themselves. From the demand side of things, drastic weather conditions are requiring new major draws from current electricity grids – whereas on the supply side of things, droughts caused by climate change are compromising the necessary hydroelectric supplies necessary. In addition to this, natural disasters like hurricanes and subsequent flooding are wearing down the infrastructure of current electricity grids. 

The use of power plants that rely on coal have also taken a hit due to new environmental regulations, demonstrating how some current electricity grids that make use of energy from power plants may not be equipped enough to survive the clean energy transition.

Could smart grids be a solution to the problem with electricity grids?

Smart grids are an electrical network that help to integrate and communicate information in real-time to help improve the functionality of traditional electricity grids. 

👉 Ultimately, smarts grids could help address some of the challenges associated with electricity grids as they can help to improve energy efficiency and sustainability.

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Smart grids can help to rectify the issues the U.S. is facing with its current electricity grids by:

  • Better Monitoring & Control of Electricity Grids: Smart grids make use of technology like sensors and meters that can provide more accurate information on the current supply and demand of an electricity grid. This allows for more proactive monitoring and prevention of an energy shortage.
  • Improved Response Programs: Since smart grids make use of newer technologies, they can help to lessen the high-demands of electricity grids by allowing consumers to more easily adjust their energy consumption. For example, someone can turn off the hot water setting on their electricity panel to save energy when they don’t need to use hot water. 
  • Use Renewable Energy: One of the biggest benefits to incorporating the use of smart grids is that they allow for better integration of various renewable energy sources like solar and wind power – both of which can help to reduce the environmental impact of standard electricity grids.
  • Greater Electricity Grid Resilience: Smart grids can help detect faults in an electricity grid more easily, and even help to restore power faster and prevent the chances of a power disruption. 
  • More Energy Efficient: Electricity grids are not the most eco-friendly, but smart grids can help with this by allowing for more energy efficient properties to help conserve energy and facilitate the transition to the use of clean energy.
  • Room for Future Improvements: Smart grids will allow for a strong foundation for future updates to be made to current electricity grids, such as by adding rooftop solar panels or new technologies that can help to improve the resiliency of electricity grids and further encourage the clean energy transition.

👉 Smart grids could do a lot to help reduce the current impact of electricity grids, but the drawback is that smart grids require extensive investments for new infrastructure and technology in addition to complying with current environmental standards and regulations. Ultimately, they serve as a viable solution to improve existing electricity grids as they can help improve the efficiency of power distribution and implement the use of renewable energy.

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What are some other solutions for the U.S. to transition to the use of clean energy with its current electricity grids?

In order for electricity grids to prove useful in the clean energy transition, they need to be reliable, well connected to reach all the necessary places across the country, be flexible in the event of the need to re-route where the original power source is coming from, and also be able to remain valuable from an economic standpoint. 

Luckily, there are some other solutions that can help to improve the functionality of current electricity grids in the midst of the energy transition. 

For instance, one of the best things that could be done is for the U.S. to increase its investments and efforts to implement the use of renewable energy sources elsewhere.  The power generated from solar panels and wind turbines can help make up for losses of coal-fired power plants that are losing momentum in the midst of new climate legislation, and also allow for more diversified sources of energy in the event of a shortage or crisis with coal or fossil fuels.


Also, seeking to upgrade current existing electricity grids could prove useful so that they can acquire these new developed sources of renewable energy. Looking to update transmission lines and investing in other energy storage systems could prove useful in the energy transition, too.

Lastly, a tactic as simple as promoting the importance of taking energy efficient measures in buildings, schools, houses, and with transportation (Americans do drive a lot…) can also make a huge difference as it would decrease the demand for energy and reduce the pressure on current electricity grids. 

Ultimately, looking to overcome the challenges in transitioning to the use of clean energy in the U.S. created by electricity grids will require effort on behalf of both the public and the government to be successful. Environmental regulations and finances will play a huge role, but people shouldn’t underestimate the power that supply and demand behavior can have on electricity grids – and that when you or your company take a moment today to decrease your carbon footprint, the U.S. could take one step closer to achieving its new energy goals.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about how current electricity grids in the United States could impact their transition to the use of clean energy has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

It can be hard to figure out the easiest places where your company can reduce its energy consumption, implement the use of renewable energy, or  – but don’t worry, Greenly is here to keep you up to date on all of the latest climate news

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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