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The big upgrade to the US power grid is kicking off

The Department of Energy (DOE) yesterday launched the Better Grid Initiative to develop new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines, which is great news for electric vehicles, charging infrastructure rollout, and clean energy in the US.

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US power grid

The grid upgrade, which will decarbonize the power sector and support electrification of transportation and other sectors such as clean energy and charging infrastructure, is a crucial part of reaching the Biden administration’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and net zero by 2050.

And it can’t come soon enough: 70% of the US grid’s transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old. There’s also insufficient transmission capacity, especially transmission that facilitates transfer of power across regions.

As it stands, the power grid is vulnerable to harsh weather, and the new initiative will improve reliability.

The new Better Grid Initiative will make the US power grid more resilient, increase access to affordable and reliable clean energy, and create jobs across industry sectors. The DOE’s summary of the Initiative states:

Under the Building a Better Grid Initiative, DOE will identify critical national transmission needs and support the buildout of long-distance, high-voltage transmission facilities that meet those needs through collaborative transmission planning, innovative financing mechanisms, coordinated permitting, and continued transmission-related research and development. DOE commits to robust engagement on energy justice and collaboration, including with states, American Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives, industry, unions, local communities, and other stakeholders for successful implementation of the program.

The DOE’s notice of intent includes five major points:

  • Engaging and collaborating early with states, tribal nations, and stakeholders.
  • Enhancing transmission planning to identify areas of greatest need.
  • Deploying more than $20 billion in federal financing tools, including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new $2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Program, $3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, and more than $10 billion in grants for states, Tribes, and utilities to enhance grid resilience and prevent power outages. It also taps into existing tools, including the more than $3 billion Western Area Power Administration Transmission Infrastructure Program, and a number of loan guarantee programs through the Loan Programs Office.
  • Facilitating an efficient transmission permitting process by coordinating with federal agencies to streamline permitting, using public private partnerships, and designating corridors. 
  • Performing transmission-related research and development

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said:

The foundation of our climate and clean energy goals is a safe, reliable, and resilient electric grid that is planned hand-in-hand with community partners and industry stakeholders.

DOE’s new Building a Better Grid initiative is a job booster spurred by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and collaboration with communities to upgrade the nation’s grid, connect more Americans to clean electricity and broadband, and reliably move clean energy to where it’s needed most.

Electrek’s Take

This is huge news, and it seems to have flown under the radar in the media, weirdly, as the power grid is, well… the grid. Kinda important.

The announcement doesn’t indicate what the timeline is, but if the Biden administration wants to meet its goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035, then this will be a steep – yet very necessary – hill to climb.

A renewed power grid is exactly what the electrification revolution needs in the US. Everyone wins.

Read more: How the US can achieve resilient power grids and support EV deployment

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.