The Department of Energy (DoE) announced plans to upgrade the U.S. electricity grid with a major aim of helping to protect vital energy infrastructure against supply disruptions caused by environmental, physical, and cyberattacks, and to minimize the impact of supply disruptions.

The Building a Better Grid initiative is meant to catalyze the nationwide development of new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines.

“DOE’s new Building a Better Grid initiative is a job booster spurred by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and collaboration with communities to upgrade the nation’s grid, connect more Americans to clean electricity and broadband, and reliably move clean energy to where it’s needed most,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in a press release.

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In a new notice of intent from DoE, the agency says that the U.S. faces challenges with its electric grid infrastructure, and highlights that studies from the past decade found that 70 percent of the grid’s transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old.

The new initiative will see DoE work with community and industry stakeholders to identify national transmission needs and support the buildout of long-distance, high-voltage transmission facilities.

“Modernizing, hardening, and expanding the grid will enhance the resilience of our entire electric system, and ensure that electricity is available to customers when it is needed most,” the agency wrote. “Aging infrastructure leaves the grid increasingly vulnerable to attacks.”

“Investment in transmission infrastructure can help protect the grid against supply disruptions due to physical and cyberattacks or climate-induced extreme weather, minimize impact of supply disruptions when they happen, and restore electricity more quickly when outages do occur,” the agency said.

In the notice of intent, DoE said the Building a Better Grid initiative will support developing nationally significant transmission projects by:

  • Engaging and collaborating early with states, tribal nations, and stakeholders;
  • Enhancing transmission planning to identify areas of great need;
  • Deploying more than $20 billion in Federal financing tools, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new $2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Program, $3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, and over $10 billion in grants for states, Tribes, and utilities to enhance grid resilience and prevent outages;
  • Facilitating an efficient transmission permitting process; and
  • Performing transmission-related research and development for developing and reducing the costs of tech that enables the transmission system to be used more efficiently.
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.