Our global and local systems of production and distribution, and indeed our individual lives, are all fueled by energy. The Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of fossil fuels for transportation and the generation of electricity have led the inhabitants of the global North to take energy for granted, while impoverished and rural populations in developing countries often go without electricity altogether.
Although energy is currently affordable and plentiful, the future of power generation is far from guaranteed. Experts generally agree that current energy production isn’t sustainable; the power industry worldwide faces highly complex and systemic challenges in meeting demand while working to establish a sustainable and viable system based on a new energy use paradigm.
The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) is the entity responsible for coordinating the interconnected energy grid from British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, through the Western U.S. to the northern region of Baja California. WECC’s territory is geographically the largest and most diverse of the eight regional entities that work together to ensure the reliability of the North American electrical grid. WECC is tasked with advising the US Department of Energy on the planning of transmission lines across the western half of North America over the next 20 years.
In the spring of 2011, Reos Partners began to assist WECC’s scenario development project for the United States Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Representatives from industry, state, provincial and national government, tribes, environmental groups, and technology and consumer groups comprise the Scenario Planning Steering Group (SPSG), the multi-stakeholder group responsible for developing the scenarios.
The focus question of the scenario exercise is: How will demand for electric power services in the WECC regions change in the next 10 and 20 years, and how will electric power supply services (and related transmission networks) change to accommodate that demand? An additional key question concerns renewable energy: How much and what types of renewable energy sources will come online in the next 10 to 20 years, and how should the transmission grid evolve accordingly? This is an interesting line of inquiry for those concerned about renewable energy, in that it delves into the heart of issues concerning local, regional, and national economic development; stewardship of natural resources; policy; and public and private investment.
Ultimately, the combination of scenario narratives and related numeric models will provide a comprehensive set of plausible future supply and resource conditions and policy decisions. The scenarios and subsequent analysis will form a comprehensive package of stakeholder-vetted, regional planning models, data, and transmission plans for North America’s western grid. In July, WECC released our first draft of the scenarios.
You may find more information about this project on our website.