Handbook on Energy and Climate Change
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Handbook on Energy and Climate Change

Edited by Roger Fouquet

This timely Handbook reviews many key issues in the economics of energy and climate change, raising new questions and offering solutions that might help to minimize the threat of energy-induced climate change.
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Chapter 5: The future of the (US) electric grid

Henry D. Jacoby, John G. Kassakian and Richard Schmalensee


The first electric power system in the USA was installed by Thomas Edison in New York City in 1882. It served 59 customers in the Wall Street area at a price of about $5 per kilowatt hour (kWh). Over the decades since, the US electric system has grown into a vast physical and human network with thousands of electricity generators providing service to hundreds of millions of consumers. The grid tying it all together is a linked system of public and private enterprises operating within a web of government institutions: federal, regional, state and municipal. Over the years it has incorporated several generations of new technology, and has improved its performance accordingly. Every expectation, though, is that change will be – and will need to be – more rapid in the next few decades than in the recent past. The grid will face new challenges, and new technologies will be available to meet them. Regulatory and other public policies will play a major role in determining the future of the grid, as will advances in technology. While some of the opportunities and challenges we discuss in this chapter are unique to the USA, we believe that many of the issues are being confronted as well by electric grids in other countries.

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