The vast majority of energy produced by renewable sources goes towards electricity. This section of the guide provides resources for learning about the electric power sector and electrical grid in the United States. The U.S. has three primary transmission grids that create a network to connect local girds to increase reliability: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection, and the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which is also called the Texas Interconnection.1 There are also electric power marketplaces, which distribute electricity from power producers to customers. These marketplaces can be independent system operators (ISOs) or regional transmission organizations (RTOs). Because they function similarly, they are often grouped together, and are also known, especially in Europe, as transmission system operators (TSOs).2 In addition to the wholesale and retail energy markets, some ISOs and RTOs also have capacity markets, where power generators are paid to maintain generation capacity in reserve, to increase grid reliability.3 ISOs and RTOs cross state lines, so they are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In 2006, FERC authorized the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a non-profit non-governmental international regulatory authority, to be the national Electric Reliability Organization of the United States. NERC ensures the reliability and security of the electric grid for the contiguous United States, Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.4
Smart grids, microgrids, and distributed generation (or distributed energy resources) are features often discussed in regards to modernizing the electrical grid, and they provide opportunities for renewable energy producers to enter the energy market.5
The following online resources are useful starting points for understanding the U.S. power grid, starting with Congressional Research Service Reports:
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) releases short energy news articles in their publication Today in Energy. The following two articles talk about the electric grid, but more information about the electric power sector can be found by doing a keyword search or browsing by tag.
Additionally, government agencies, organizations, and energy journalists have written helpful overviews explaining the power grid. Some useful starting points are linked below.
The following online resources provide information on electric power sector, its history, and new technologies.
The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are provided when available.