The energy challenge: We're at a critical point

“Our nation’s electric power infrastructure is … rapidly running up against its limitations.”

Dept of Energy report

A failing system: Since it was first created about 100 years ago, the U.S. power grid hasn’t changed much, nor have most of the laws and regulations governing it. 

What’s at stake? To avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, we must upgrade the power system—and do it soon.

Why it has to change

Our power grid can be summed up with three words: polluting, inefficient and unreliable.
  • 65% of climate pollution comes from energy generation and use1
  • 3/4 of the energy in electric generation and delivery is lost before reaching customers2
  • $150b lost annually from power outages and blackouts in the U.S.3

What stands in the way?

It’s not a matter of technology or knowledge. We have the tools to make clean energy a reality. It’s projected that by mid-century—with a more flexible and dynamic power grid in place—we could meet 80 percent of the nation’s electricity needs using clean energy technologies that exist right now.

It’s a matter of outdated policies.  Old, entrenched regulations limit new players—like solar companies and even homeowners—from earning revenue and plugging into the full range of products otherwise available in a truly open market. Examples? 

  • In North Carolina, state laws allow only a few, big utilities to sell power directly to consumers, a monopoly structure that stifles competition among clean energy companies and provides consumers with less freedom to choose the energy provider that works best for them.
  • In the Midwest, coal-centric utilities like FirstEnergy use their political power to shut out competition from clean energy innovators who are helping homeowners and businesses save energy and money.

What we’re doing to fix it

We’re clearing the path to a clean energy economy by supporting EPA’s Clean Power Plan, rewriting outdated regulations, spurring energy services markets, and modernizing our century-old electric grid—and we need your help.

In-depth resources

Our energy experts supply fact sheets, blog posts and other technical resources.

Media contact

  • Mica Crouse
    (512) 691-3451 (office)
    (512) 913-9068 (cell)

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  1. EDF calculations based on World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (subscription required); includes emissions from land-use change and forestry.
  2. Based on U.S. EPA estimate of average fossil-fuel power plant losses of 67% and EIA estimates of transmission and distribution losses of 6%.
  3. Data from U.S EIA Electric Power Annual 2009-State Data Tables (2011)