One challenge with renewable energy is portability. You cannot put sunshine in a railcar and ship it to where it is needed. This is a problem because many prime sites for the collection and production of renewable energy are located far from the population centers where industry and households need electricity.
Of course we can transmit electricity from source to where it is needed thanks to transmission lines. But increasingly these lines in countries around the world are not suited for the job. In the United States for example many of the “transmission and distribution lines were built between the 1950s and 1970s, and they only have a 50-year life expectancy”. Also, extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent and severe with climate change, test this aging infrastructure and often it fails. These failures are not only inconvenient they are deadly; the storm that caused the electricity grid in Texas to fail in February 2021 cost 246 people their lives not just from extreme cold but because they couldn’t get healthcare they needed like dialysis.
Lastly, we blithely talk about ‘the grid’ but the truth is that in most countries there is not a single, organized, planned and redundant grid but a patchwork of incompatible systems that makes it impossible to route extra electricity from an area with a surplus to one with a shortage.
What can you do to make the transmission system of the future a reality? Probably the two areas where the average citizen can have an impact is in planning and permitting. For planning, you can write to politicians and policy makers to encourage them to plan with an eye to actual long term needs and also to design systems that allow for regional coordination. In permitting write to policy makers to speed up the process to ensure that new transmission lines get built more quickly.