6:12pm

Tue April 10, 2012
Environment

Reforming Our Aging Electrical Grid: A Case for ‘Top Down’ Change

The future of the country’s aging electrical grid—which is inefficient and prone to blackouts—was front-and-center on Tuesday during a talk sponsored by Colorado State University and Fort Collins-based Rocky Mountain Innosphere.

Right now the biggest challenge according to Maggie Koerth-Baker stems from how officials are approaching changing the antiquated electrical system.  Koerth-Baker is author of the recently released book, “Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis before it Conquers Us.” She says most of the reform needs to start from the top down.

“We have to change the systems rather than just the sources that work within the systems,” she says. “Our infrastructure and systems that we live in are designed to force us to waste energy, and use energy in ways that aren’t good for what our goals are. Until we change those systems it’s going to be hard for people to be able to make the individual choices that they want to make.”

While cities like Fort Collins and Boulder are moving to more efficient smart grid systems, millions of Americans still power up their appliances from old electrical grids that are inefficient and prone to black outs.

Koerth-Baker says one example of effective reform comes from military bases, which initiate “top-down” changes, but then make additional adjustments based on feedback from energy users.

“When those changes got made, they ended up starting to change how everyone in the entire military culture thought about energy, which then led to more changes at the top and bottom,” she says. “You end up with this back-and-forth, give-and-take that really leads to massive economy-wide shifts in how people use energy.”