America’s energy infrastructure needs help, says American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). That group releases an annual report card about the nation’s infrastructure. The report has big-time recommendations, and it also projects what poor infrastructure costs each family. Here are some highlights from the report.

The nation’s energy system got a C-minus grade. For clarity, not all energy hardware is in a world of hurt. Some are excellent, but there’s a lot of work to do. “…more utilities are taking proactive steps to adapt to climate change, by strengthening the grid through resilience measures and incorporating consensus-based standards during long- and short-term planning.”

For the customers of those pro-active utilities – good for you. For others – watch out, ECC says – be ready to pay if your utility is not already making big improvements.

How much help?

The report says the national electricity infrastructure gap is estimated to be $208 billion by 2029, and $338 billion by 2039 to ensure a reliable energy system. Power generation will be 60% of the total gap by 2039, and transmission and final distribution representing 10% and 29%.

Between 2020 and 2039, each household will lose on average $5,800 in disposable income if the generation, transmission, and distribution investment gaps are not mitigated. Closing the electricity investment gap would lead to fewer brownouts and blackouts and save US businesses $637 billion, prevent the loss of 540,000 jobs and $5,800 in personal income losses for each American family.

The power generation portfolio changes. Funds are needed as it changes.

Funding & Future Need

The report says all three major components of the electric grid (generation, transmission, and distribution) have investment gaps. To meet state-driven Renewable Portfolio Standards in generation infrastructure, the gap is projected to grow to a cumulative $197 billion by 2029.

ECC believes that as policymakers campaign and debate, keep in mind the funds needed, regulatory safeguards, and customer impacts of actions. The events in Texas prove that what resonates in legislative halls can have massive, even dire public safety impacts, outside the hall.

In the past decade, investment in overhead poles, wires, devices, and fixtures such as sensors, relays, and circuits has risen by 69%; substation transformers and other station equipment increased by 35%. Spending on electricity distribution systems (wires/poles closest to homes) has risen 54% over the past two decades, from $31 billion to $51 billion annually.

There will be an additional required investment to maintain these wires and poles, transformers, meters, and similar equipment, which are usually the responsibility of the local utility. That cost falls on customers.

The report leads to questions from an energy standpoint. Are the companies tending the energy infrastructure strong, capable, resourceful? Do these companies work with the state governments in a team effort? Are they getting the job done for the future of energy? Especially after the Texas events, the strength and capabilities of energy companies will be under the microscope.

Our next blog about the ASCE report will look at some of the recommendations.