According to Scienceline, almost four years after the massive 2003 North America blackout, experts say an even worse scenario could occur. Congestion on the nationwide transmission grid still is high as a result of utility firms building more and more power plants without building additional transmission lines. An industry report from Fitch Ratings asserts that the grid consists of “aging infrastructure, significant underinvestment, and technology that was developed in the 1950s or -earlier.”

In recent years, limited investments in transmission systems have been made in the most congested areas on the grid, especially along the Northeast corridor, according to Karen Anderson of Fitch Ratings, lead author of the report. But experts agree that much more needs to be done.

According to George Gross, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, utilities and federal agencies should update the grid by constructing new transmission lines as well as incorporating new technologies such as real-time monitoring. He said the technology, which lets grid operators identify overloads and bottlenecks on the grid, needs to be implemented nationwide. “Reliability puts in a severe constraint,” Gross said. “If we don’t observe those constraints, we run into trouble.”            EC