When we want to build physical strength and stamina, we get active or join a gym. We build mental strength by going to therapy, playing word games or journaling. Building up or “hardening” the grid works in a similar way — it requires assistance from an outside force to improve its strength, reliability and resiliency.
The grid works as a kind of grapevine that distributes energy to homes and businesses. Like a grapevine in a vineyard, the grid is vulnerable to climate events and human interference. Utility companies like Alliant Energy create improvements to the grid to help maintain its quality and protect it. These improvements range from introducing clean energy to moving the electrical wires in your neighborhood underground.
Local and federal governments create laws and provide resources for projects that help harden the grid and improve the affordability of clean energy development for utility companies and homeowners. Often, this assistance builds resiliency into the electrical grid in one of two ways: by driving innovation in emerging technologies or by incentivizing improvements to current technology.
Driving innovation in emerging technologies
One of the ways governments harden the grid is by giving funds to communities where innovation in clean energy is greatly needed. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is one of the most recent examples of legislation from the federal government that works to harden the nation’s electrical grid. Enacted into law in August 2022, it includes several clean energy and energy efficiency provisions.
The IRA provides funding and programs for communities that have been systemically underrepresented in the transition to clean energy. For example, the IRA expands access to clean energy for Indigenous groups and seeks to promote innovation on Tribal land. It also includes building infrastructure and climate-smart practices in rural farming communities to build grid resilience across the country.
Municipal and county laws allow utilities to develop renewable energy on public land, such as building utility scale solar fields and wind farms or adding electric charging stations within city and county limits.
Incentives to improve current technology
Governments can also assist in hardening the grid by providing incentives for communities to improve current grid technologies. One of the programs within the IRA, the Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment Program, provides incentives for communities to adapt their current technology in the transition to clean energy. These incentives include tax and investment credits. Improvements to current technology also help reduce carbon emissions and air pollutants and create a healthier environment.
Additionally, local governments and utility companies work together to improve current electrical technology by “undergrounding” electrical wires. This process builds resiliency in the grid during severe weather and protects the grid from power outages.
Building reliability and resiliency in the electrical grid is a team effort. Just like joining a gym to build physical strength or using a journal to practice mindfulness, utility companies and governments work together to improve the grid. This partnership can ease the impact of outages and ensure confidence in our shared environment.
Grant Barton is a Communications Partner with a passion for sustainability and eco-friendly city planning. He has a diverse background in engineering, politics and international communications and hopes to apply this experience when writing and breaking down complex topics related to Alliant Energy's Clean Energy Future plans.