Civil engineers: Power grid could break down by 2020 without $600+ billion in improvements

The civil engineers say that if investment in the system isn’t increased by at least $1 billion a year, service interruptions between now and 2020 will cost $197 billion.

“The consequences of the brownouts and power surges will cost more than the rising rates,” says Steven Landau, an economic consultant who was the lead author of the ASCE report. “It’s a problem that’s important to solve because, more and more, we evolve as a technological society by plugging things into the wall.”

Even as America has become a digital culture ever more dependent on electricity, the basic principles of power delivery haven’t changed much since Thomas Edison flipped on the first commercial power grid in lower Manhattan on Sept. 4, 1882, as NPR reported back in 2009…

The worst problems are found in the components that carry electricity across the nation and deliver it to customers. The civil engineers society found that more than two-thirds of the system’s transmission lines and power transformers are at least 25 years old. The group says 60 percent of the circuit breakers have been in use for more than 30 years.

Utility companies have drawn increased criticism for outages at the distribution level, where low-voltage lines run along streets, overhead or underground, and wires bring electricity to homes and businesses.