Friday, October 06, 2017
Billy Long: We must maintain a steady supply of electricity
With the flip of a switch, millions of Americans use electricity to power their everyday lives without even thinking twice. In the United States, there are 7,700 power plants that generate electricity over 700,000 transmission lines and distribute it across 6.5 million miles of local distribution lines. The United States generates its electricity from a variety of resources, including coal, natural gas, wind and nuclear power. In Missouri, coal leads the way, generating almost three-fourths of Missouri’s net electricity. In fact, of the 10 largest power plants in Missouri, 8 are fueled by coal. But this trend is changing for Missouri and across the United States. In fact, natural gas recently surpassed coal as the leading source of electricity generation.
Low cost and abundant electricity is one of the leading forces in economic competitiveness, which makes it vital to ensure a reliable electric grid to provide a steady supply of electricity.
Technological changes, renewable energy and the massive new supply of natural gas are transforming our energy landscape. Currently, 15 percent of electricity is generated from renewable resources and that number is expected to increase in the future. As coal plants are shut down to bring these new sources into the energy mix, grid reliability has become a challenge.
With such a significant economic investment in electricity, the need for durable infrastructure is crucial. Like any infrastructure, electricity infrastructure has a lifespan, albeit a relatively long one. Updating existing infrastructure and building out new transmission lines to accommodate these new energy sources is extremely time consuming and costly. Utilities and transmission developers have to sort through a tangle of state and federal regulations in the siting of new transmission lines.
Along with electricity infrastructure comes the importance of investing in energy technology and software. Investing in efficient and cost-saving energy storage technologies, for example, helps save consumers money on their electric bills. Some of these technologies include batteries, flywheels and pumped hydropower. Another important aspect of this is energy management systems. New and improved technologies, such as smart meters and devices connected to the infrastructure, increases ways to lower costs and react to real time decisions.
As a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, we continue to hold a series of hearings on “Powering America” to address the changing energy landscape and ensure that the grid remains secure and reliable, consumers have more options, energy remains cheap and abundant and that outdated federal policies don’t get in the way.