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New Energy Technologies and Avoiding an Electric Service Gap

“The electricity industry is now entering a similar period of rapid change as that faced by the telecom industry a decade ago. New technologies from smart grids and solar panels to superefficient homes and electricity storage are all coming on-line rapidly at the same time that our legacy infrastructure faces the unanswered challenges of an aging fleet of power plants and transmission lines. This is coupled with destabilizing pollution threats and the disruptive force of rapidly changing fuel costs due to the collapse of natural gas prices. If these deeply transformative changes in the U.S. power sector are not managed properly, 21st century America could see an emerging electrical divide not unlike the digital divide of the late 20th century. Again, these changes and innovations are to be welcomed for what they can bring in terms of economic opportunity, technological leadership, and the stewardship of our environmental resources. But they must be managed with an eye toward inclusion and aim to bridge any potential electrical divide that emerges. In this issue brief we explain how this electrical divide could come to pass and how it can still be avoided, drawing on lessons learned from America’s earliest history with electrification, as well as from the recent growth of the telecom industry and the emergent challenges of the digital divide.” [Center for American Progress]

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