Modernizing the grid: Who pays, who profits, who participates?

WRITTEN BY Kari Lydersen

The transformation of the country’s electric grid — into a smart grid dotted with solar panels, batteries, microgrids and more — holds nearly infinite potential to change our daily lives, our cities and our environment.

That was the overarching theme delivered by experts from industry, government and nonprofit groups at the national Grid Modernization Forum in Chicago this week.

But unlocking all this potential won’t be easy. Challenges include the risk of cyber-attacks, the overwhelming amount of data generated and a maze of regulations developed over more than a century.

Perhaps the greatest conundrum, though, is figuring out who should pay for grid modernization efforts, and how to quantify costs and benefits that are often intangible or based on a constantly shifting mosaic of variables.

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