Start with the problem. America's electric grid is aging and not keeping up with demand. Electricity demand has increased by 25% since 1990 while construction of transmission facilities decreased by about 30 percent. The results are higher costs and more blackouts. Carol Browner, the president's top adviser on energy and climate change, called the grid "outdated" and "dilapidated."
Our discussion of energy is dominated by wind farms and solar panels. They're important, of course. But they leave open the question of moving the energy from the where it's made (offshore wind farms or sunny deserts) to where it's used (cities and factories). That's the grid. It's called smart because it can re-route electricity in accordance with demand or around trouble spots.
In the end, we want it all. Wind farms, solar panels and a smart grid to bring the energy from point A to point B. That's our clean energy future.
"Not simply a timid buy America policy satisfied with the final assembly of parts and technologies made elsewhere, but moving entire supply chains so that our workers and engineers and entrepreneurs are familiar with cutting edge technologies that our inventors can soon surpass."
Right now, half of our wind turbines are imported from overseas. Ninety percent of our solar cells are manufactured in China -- which requires that its own solar installations use domestic (Chinese) content.
Public investment in infrastructure is a crucial step in that direction. It creates jobs now and increases our competitiveness in the future. A new smart grid is part of it -- and it's even smarter if the transformers aren't imported from China.
If you're near DC, please come to our conference Thursday October 29, building the new economy. It's free, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will share his ideas over lunch. It's time to pop the bubble economy.