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Parade.com  - May 3, 2009

Our Electricity Deficit

The U.S. is barely generating enough electricity to meet current needs, and demand is expected to grow 26% over the next 20 years, according to the Energy Information Administration. A new report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a national group that oversees electrical-grid operators, predicts that power shortages will occur across the Northeast and West as well as in Texas within two years after the economy rebounds. Besides finding new sources to generate Power, the U.S. must change how it is distributed - and that could mean an overhaul of the national grid.

"Our electric grid was never designed to move power from one region to another," says Glenn English of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents ore than 900 utilities across the U.S. "It's overloaded and desperately needs to be expanded." Many experts believe that "smart-grid" technology could ease problems by allowing utility companies to better manage demand and enable consumers who generate excess power (through solar panels, for example) to return it to the grid. Congress authorized some $500 million for smart-grid development in 2007, and the stimulus package added $5 billion. Leading the way is Austin, Tex., which began building a smart grid in 2003 and now has 270,000 devices online that regulate electricity use.

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