A power blackout
for a brittle system

The Blackout of 2003 is being portrayed as a wake-up call, but many public officials are still dreaming an energy nightmare. President Bush is talking about building massive electric transmission lines across the country. And power industry leaders are calling for more nuclear power plants and relaxed air pollution regulations on dirty coal-fired plants.

It's a mistake to focus solely on patching up the present electric power grid. The grid is based on a centralized architecture of power generation and transmissionan inherently brittle system that will always be prone to sudden, catastrophic failures and be highly vulnerable to terrorist attack. (Amory Lovins and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute have been talking about this for years. See the links at right.)

Instead, we should be developing a power system structured more like the Interneta decentralized, flexible, redundant network in which the failure of any one part cannot bring down the whole system. We need to distribute small, modular electrical devices across the grid close to where power is needed. Energy sources such as fuel cells, cogeneration heat and power systems, solar panels, and wind turbines can provide power at lower cost, less environmental damage, and greater reliability than the centralized power grid.

Existing power companies have a huge vested interest in maintaining the status quo. But if we want true energy security in America, we should remove the political and policy barriers to local, small-scale, distributed power generationwith an emphasis on clean, renewable sources.


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We need distributed power sources close to home rather that a centralized grid vulnerable to catastrophic failures.

Resources for a sustainable and secure energy future
Rocky Mountain Institute
Brittle Power
Union of Concerned Scientists
American Solar Energy Society
American Wind Energy Association
Labor unions' Apollo Alliance project
Real Goods solar products
Green Energy Ohio
Northeast-Midwest Institute
Environmental Law & Policy Center

Plain Dealer coverage of the blackout

Coverage of the Consumers' Counsel scandal



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