Much of the U.S. energy system predates the turn of the 21st century. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, and the more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the lower 48 states’ power grids are at full capacity. Energy infrastructure is undergoing increased investment to ensure long-term capacity and sustainability; in 2015, 40% of additional power generation came from natural gas and renewable systems. Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions.
Near-term, U.S. energy systems are projected to deliver sufficient energy to meet national demands in the near term, as energy consumption fell slightly, from 98 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2014 to 97.7 quadrillion Btu in 2015, and is estimated to grow at a modest rate, averaging 0.4% per year from 2015 through 2040. In general, the capacity and condition of energy systems depend on ownership and geographic region, with privately-owned sources in the best position to invest.
Due to private ownership, national security concerns, and costs of service, there is limited public visibility into infrastructure investment levels and need across electricity, oil and gas, and alternative energy sources. Increased investment in alternative sources of energy for power generation, heating and cooling, transportation, and process industries is needed for a sustainable future, but investment in this area lags, principally due to a lack of federal energy policy.Funding & Future Need
The U.S. energy sector faces significant challenges as a result of aging infrastructure, including supply security and reliability and resiliency issues in the face of severe weather events, all posing a threat to public safety and the national economy. Between 2003 and 2012, weather-related outages, coupled with aging infrastructure, are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion. Some states have enacted “storm hardening” policies to improve reliability during weather events, but these are typically influenced by local politics, rather than engineers’ recommendations. Local solutions, such as distributed generation and resilient microgrids, may offer lower-cost alternatives to major system investments particularly in areas at elevated risk from severe weather or other natural disasters.Public Safety, Resilience, & Innovation
ASCE urges the 116th Congress to focus on prioritizing infrastructure upgrades and modernization to sustain our economy, public health, and safety. Contact your Member of Congress to urge them to draft and pass legislation that moves toward closing the $2 trillion investment gap.Share Story
Tell Congress to reverse decades of underinvestment by making an infrastructure bill a top priority in 2020.Share Story
While we have made some progress, reversing the trajectory after decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure requires transformative action.Share Story