energy infrastructure

Energy

C-

Overview

In a digital, connected world, Americans increasingly rely on readily available and uninterrupted electricity. Over the last four years, transmission and distribution and reliability-focused pipeline investments have increased, and outages have declined slightly. Annual spending on high voltage transmission lines grew from $15.6 billion in 2012 to $21.9 billion in 2017, while annual spending on distribution systems — the “last mile” of the electricity network — grew 54% over the past two decades. Utilities are taking proactive steps to strengthen the electric grid through resilience measures. However, weather remains an increasing threat. Among 638 transmission outage events reported from 2014 to 2018, severe weather was cited as the predominant cause. Additionally, distribution infrastructure struggles with reliability, with 92% of all outages occurring along these segments. In the coming years, additional transmission and distribution infrastructure, smart planning, and improved reliability are needed to accommodate the changing energy landscape, as delivery becomes distributed and renewables grow.

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Highlights

Transmission spending

grew from $15.6 billion in 2012

to $21.9 billion in 2017

Utilities are taking

proactive steps to strengthen the electric grid

through resilience measures

Energy infrastructure in the U.S.

is used to

generate, transmit, and distribute electricity

Condition, Capacity, Operations & Maintenance

ELECTRICITY

Energy infrastructure in the U.S. is used to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity. The electric industry has invested significantly to meet customers’ demands, but transmission and distribution (T&D) systems still struggle with reliability. This problem is likely to accelerate as the impacts of climate change persist and the public’s expectation of more reliable, “always-on” electricity increases.

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration 2019

Funding & Future Need

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

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energy infrastructure

Resilience & Innovation

While the weather has always been the number one threat to the energy sector’s reliability, climate change has only exacerbated the frequency and intensity of these events and associated costs. The Department of Energy (DOE) found that power outages are costing the U.S. economy $28 billion to $169 billion annually. 

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Public Safety

Pipeline incidents impacting people or the environment have declined by 20% in the past five years, while national pipeline capacity has grown by 12%. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) statistics indicate that the frequency of significant pipeline incidents has fluctuated between 291 to 308 incidents in 2017 to 2019.

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Raising the Grade

Solutions that Work

Adopt a federal energy policy that provides clear direction for meeting current and future demands factoring in technology change, carbon reduction, renewables and distributed generation, state and market-based factors, and rate affordability.

Require the adoption of consensus-based standards for all overhead T&D lines, structures, and substations to ensure safety and increase reliability.

Improve grid and pipeline reliability by increasing frequency and effectiveness of critical asset inspections and focusing on robust risk mitigation; consider life cycle costs and technology impacts during system upgrades and replacements.

Develop a national hardening plan that considers investment in production/generation and delivery (T&D, pipelines) to enable rapid restoration of energy systems after natural and/or manmade disasters.

Consolidate federal, state, and local environmental reviews and permitting processes so new T&D and pipelines can be funded, create jobs earlier, and modernize energy infrastructure faster — while ensuring environmental and community impacts are fully vetted and considered.

Design energy infrastructure including life-cycle cost analysis and construction of additional transmission grid infrastructure to efficiently deliver power from generation sources to regions with greatest demand requirements.

View Report Sources

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, Today in Energy, “Major Utilities Continue to Increase Spending on U.S. Electric Distribution Systems,” July 20, 2018. 

2 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020. 

3 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages,” 2013. 

4 U.S. Department of Energy, “Dynamic Line Rating: Report to Congress,” June 2019. 

5 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, Today in Energy, “Investor-Owned Utilities Served 72% of U.S. Electricity Customers in 2017,” August 15, 2019. 

6  American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

7 Institution of Engineering and Technology, Generation, Transmission & Distribution, 2019, Vol. 13 Iss. 5, pp. 717-723. “Distribution system versus bulk power system: identifying the source of electric service interruptions in the US.”  

8 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

9 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Office of Energy Projects, Energy Infrastructure Update,” April 2020. 

10 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Office of Energy Projects, Energy Infrastructure Update,” July 2020 and August 2020.

11 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Office of Energy Projects, Energy Infrastructure Update,” July 2020 and August 2020.

12 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, “U.S. Energy Facts Explained.” 

13 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

14 U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “PHMSA Regulations,” 2020. 

15 U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “General Pipeline FAQs,” 2018. 

16 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, “Natural Gas Explained.” 

17 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, “Natural Gas Explained.”

18 U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Cast and Wrought Iron Inventory.” 

19 National Petroleum Council, “Dynamic Delivery: America’s Evolving Oil and Natural Gas Transportation Infrastructure,” 2019. 

20 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

21 Edison Electric Institute, “2018 Financial Review: Annual Report of the U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utility Industry,” pp 52-53, 2018.

22 Edison Electric Institute, “2018 Financial Review: Annual Report of the U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utility Industry,” pp 52-53, 2018. 

23 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, Today in Energy, “Major Utilities Continue to Increase Spending on U.S. Electric Distribution Systems,” July 20, 2018. 

24 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, Today in Energy, “Major Utilities Continue to Increase Spending on U.S. Electric Distribution Systems,” July 20, 2018.

25 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, Today in Energy, “Major Utilities Continue to Increase Spending on U.S. Electric Distribution Systems,” July 20, 2018.

26 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIE), Independent Statistics and Analysis, Today in Energy, “Major Utilities Continue to Increase Spending on U.S. Electric Distribution Systems,” July 20, 2018.

27 Edison Electric Institute, “Smarter Energy Infrastructure: The Critical Role and Value of Electric Transmission,” 2019. 

28 National Environmental Policy Act, “Executive Orders.” 

29 American Petroleum Institute, “U.S. Oil and Gas Infrastructure Investment Through 2035: An Engine for Economic Growth,” 2017. 

30 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

31 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

32 Lynch, O, P.E., “But it’s Just a Distribution Line!” Electrical Transmission and Substation Structures, 2012 Conference. 

33 McKinsey and Company, “Why, and How, Utilities Should Start to Manage Climate-Change Risk,” April 24, 2019. 

34 McKinsey and Company, “Why, and How, Utilities Should Start to Manage Climate-Change Risk,” April 24, 2019.

35  American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” 2020.

36 Edison Electric Institute, “Smarter Energy Infrastructure: The Critical Role and Value of Electric Transmission,” 2019.

37 U.S. Department of Energy, “How Distributed Energy Resources Can Improve Resilience in Public Buildings: Three Case Studies and a Step-by-Step Guide,” 2019. 

38 Significant incidents are those including any of the following conditions, but gas distributions caused by nearby fire or explosion that impacted the pipeline system are excluded: 

  1. Fatality or injury requiring in-patient hospitalization
  2. $50,000 or more in total costs, measured in 1984 dollars
  3. Highly volatile liquid releases of 5 barrels or more or other liquid releases of 50 barrels or more
  4. Liquid releases resulting in an unintentional fire or explosion

U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “Pipeline Incident 20 Year Trends.” 

39 Federal Emergency Management Association, “Power Outages.” 

40 U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Critical Infrastructure Protection: Actions Needed to Address Significant Cybersecurity Risks Facing the Electric Grid,” August 26, 2019. 

41 U.S. Department of Energy, Cybersecurity Strategy 2018-2020. 

42 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “Cyber and Grid Security,” 2020. 

43 ASCE 48: Design of Steel Transmission Pole Structures ASCE 10: Design of Latticed Steel Transmission Structures, Manual of Practice 74: Guidelines for Electrical Transmission Line Structural Loading, Manual of Practice 141: Wood Pole Structures for Electrical Transmission Lines: Recommended Practice for Design and Use, and Manual of Practice 113: Substation Structure Design Guide 

 


PHOTO CREDITS

  1. Photo Courtesy of Anna Denecke
  2. Photo Courtesy of Build Together
  3. Photo Courtesy of Build Together 
  4. Photo Courtesy of FirstEnergy Corp
  5. Photo Courtesy of FirstEnergy Corp
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