Today’s grid: old, dirty, and inefficient
Our current power system is over 140 years old and was designed around cheap and abundant (and dirty) fossil fuels. The grid has become increasingly complex over the years as our energy demand has grown, our sources of energy have shifted, and technology has evolved.
Today, renewable energy is actually cheaper than fossil fuels, so why are we still supporting this old and inefficient grid system when we have better alternatives?
There is an abundance of research indicating that a grid powered entirely by renewable energy is possible and will happen. The most recent study coming out of UC Berkeley outlines the process of getting off fossil fuels quicker than anticipated, at no extra cost to taxpayers. The only thing it lacks is political support.
It’s all based on supply & demand
Your utility company purchases electricity from various sources — could be solar panels on your roof or a nuclear power plant 200 miles away. Electric demand varies constantly, depending on the season, time of day, and a number of other factors. And when demand is higher, electricity is more expensive.
A power provider must always be prepared to handle the maximum demand placed upon the system at any given moment. The utility’s goal is to provide consistency and affordability to consumers. Therefore, they must be able to predict when demand will be highest. Luckily for them, there is a lot of data to help them with those predictions.
For example, ISO New England and New York ISO share, in real time, where 100% of the energy in our region comes from. The chart below shows on July 21, 2020, over 92% of the energy consumed in New England came from natural gas and nuclear power. So this is a good baseline to answer our question “where does our electricity come from?”