Supergrids are becoming an important concept in terms of enhancing the resiliency of the electric grid. A supergrid is a carefully-planned network of high voltage transmission systems that span countries or even continents to enable the integration of renewable power on a bulk scale. This massive scale increases reliability while also decreasing costs.
Despite the perceived benefits, the development of supergrids has some challenges associated with it. For example, building a large-scale infrastructure is expensive, and therefore there is some inherent resistance to the concept. Additionally, there are no harmonized standards across regions, so every build requires reinventing the wheel to create standards from scratch. Similarly, processes to get permits and authorization across borders are complex and differ by region, and some regions may be reluctant to forfeit control over their piece of the grid.
Despite these challenges, supergrids seem to be the wave of the future. Spending on supergrids is expected to increase over 20% in the next decade – from $8.3 billion in 2016 to $10.2 billion in 2025. That’s a huge dollar amount, but I believe a necessary expenditure as the electric utility industry continues to be exposed to an increasing number of freakishly large storms over time, a trend that will only increase as with climate change. So, in my view, although $10 billion is a lot of money, the development of supergrids is a necessary evil.