Why We Need a Green Lane on the Grid

Last week, cold temperatures in Texas besides disrupting Superbowl preparations, led to power outages.  Rolling blackouts across the South focused attention on our troubled grid with some trying to blame the problems in Texas on wind power that now provides more power in Texas than nuclear energy.  In reality, howevever, the problem was that several coal plants would not kick over in the cold and heating strained natural gas supplies.  Wind power actually came to the rescue. 

Texas and rolling blackouts in Washington DC and New York following recent storms show that our grid is in need of an upgrade.  But they also show that the solution to our problems do not lie in the past.  They lie in the future.  We need to increase resilience and flexibility on the grid using 21st Century technologies and being mindful of 21st Century economics.

How do we get more clean, resilient power online and then get it where it is needed?  Later today, I am going to be unveiling a new policy idea called the Green Lane.  It is a simple proposal to give producers of clean energy--wherever they may be, simple, universal access to a new Green Lane to get that power anywhere it is needed.  Would this require massive new investment?  No.  The good news, while the whole network does need more capacity, initially it would merely require minor regulatory reform to switch on a Green Lane to give clean, green power an easy on ramp to the network and then get that power where it is needed.

Our current system, as I have writen before, was not built with on ramps.  Rather, the dominant model is large, centralized generation as befits a network that was built on the 20th Century premise of huge economies of scale.  However, the dominant new forms of electricity generation have changed.  Gas fired plants, wind turbines and solar are less about a single, central generation point than about collecting energy where it exists and then getting it where it is needed.  Today a better model for the electricity network is our highway system that allows anyone open acess to move goods where they are needed.   But today, a host of barriers block new generators from finding an on ramp to the network.  Many new projects require millions of dollars in legal fees and rate filing applications to get access to the grid.  This is not how its supposed to work.  Indeed, progressive areas of the country such as the PJM Interconnection have adopted plug and play standards to hook up power.  But we are a long distance from plug and play standards for the entire network.  What's more, once the power is online, currently there is no easy way for consumers--be they large companies like Wal-Mart and Google or environmentally concious households and communites to get clean power.

The idea of a Green Lane is simple.  Create a single standard to allow plug and play hookup to the network on either end--to upload clean power and download it without having to negotiate complex agreements that are an insurmountable barrier to most people.

Tune in later today at 2:00PM today to learn more about the Green Lane.  Click here to RSVP