Byrd and Matthewman also concede that the demand challenge could be addressed, or at least mitigated, by upgrading the grid. A smart grid combined with better energy storage mechanisms could handle the intermittency and decentralized nature of renewable energy sources in a way that can overwhelm today’s industrial era grids.
But in a slow-growth global economy hell-bent on austerity, the prospects for large government investments in grid resilience look slim. According to the global insurance company Allianz in an extensive report on blackout risks in the US and Europe, “privatization and liberalization” have contributed to “missing incentives to invest in reliable, and therefore well maintained, infrastructures.”
I am sure this study will be breathlessly fluttered about by conservatives as proof that hybrid and electric cars are terrible, and that we must, must as a nation rapidly expand the building of coal-fired and nuclear power plants.
I am equally sure that none of these arguments will acknowledge the roles that austerity and deregulation have played in the increasing fragility of our power systems.