Today, the U.S. electric grid connects more than 9,000 electricity producers to millions of consumers through 6 million miles of transmission lines managed by more than 3,000 different private and public organizations. In the coming years, these numbers are set to expand, while the demand for renewable energy grows.
To meet the surge in demand projected by 2050, innovative engineers, utility operators and grid architects are planning for a future that blurs the distinctions between energy consumers and producers. Homeowners, businesses and other traditional utility customers are beginning to take on a new role as energy producers, through small-scale solar arrays, wind turbines and other new affordable technologies.
To coordinate so many different power sources and demands, the future power grid will depend on artificial intelligence, automated two-way communications and computer control systems to continuously collect and synthesize data from millions of smart sensors.