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July 2013 Policy Study, Number 13-5


Electricity – Make It, Use It – 24/7/365

Review of Electrical Grid Issues





American infrastructure is critical to our overall economic success. Our standards for highway, water, and electricity are emulated worldwide. Recent visitors to Iowa from China were continually amazed by our reliable and stable access to the interstate highways, by being able to drink from public water fountains and have ice machines in hotel corridors, and by having electricity 24 hours a day at the flick of a switch. However, as recent tornados, hurricanes, and floods have shown, the infrastructure has weaknesses.


Before we can address these weaknesses, you must know where improvements are needed. Often professional associations take on this role. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has issued a report evaluating America’s infrastructure every four years since 1998. In the most recent “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” the ASCE gave the overall infrastructure of the United States a D+.[1] They estimate the funding needed to address all infrastructure deficiencies between now and 2020 at $3.6 trillion.


The Report Card was developed by a committee of 32 licensed professional engineers, from a wide variety of backgrounds. It covers water and environment, transportation, public facilities, and energy issues, with detailed reviews of individual sectors and a breakout section for every state. The eight criteria evaluated include capacity, condition, funding, future needs, operations and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.[2] Though one might expect civil engineers to advocate for additional funding and more focus on areas in which they have a vested personal financial interest, their opinions are still worthy of consideration.


This POLICY STUDY will look more closely at the energy infrastructure, focusing specifically on electricity and electrical grid issues in Iowa. While conserving energy and making full use of renewable energy sources is important, it does not matter how much electricity you generate if it does not get to end-use consumers 24/7/365. If the grid cannot handle sufficient volume and withstand natural weather patterns, the waste can cost millions of dollars of both consumer and tax dollars.




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