energy efficiency, help in load-leveling,14 and enable residential and small-scale power generation. It would allow for self-generation and storage as well as for customers to participate in an interactive mode by responding to price signals.

  1. Provides high power quality where needed. The modern distribution system would be capable of supplying higher “power quality”15 where needed for a digital society that increasingly relies on sensitive microprocessor-based devices in homes, offices, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities. The highest power quality is not necessarily cost-effective for all users, so some may still need to provide additional sources of power, standby generation, or other devices that can ride through minor electrical disturbances on either the transmission or the distribution system.

  2. Is secure. The modern T&D infrastructure would be minimally vulnerable to human error, natural disasters, and physical and cyber attacks. Resilience would be built into each element, and the overall system would be designed to deter, detect, respond to, and recover from any plausible disruption. The modern transmission system would also reduce the consequences of a successful attack through its self-healing and “islanding”16 capabilities.

  3. Optimizes assets and operates efficiently. A modern transmission system would utilize power lines as efficiently as possible, integrating and coordinating assets to maximize their overall function in an economical way.

These characteristics cannot be fully achieved by introducing individual modern technologies in isolation. Key technologies (such as high-speed measurements and communications and automated controls, discussed in the sections that follow) must be integrated using a systems approach designed to meet performance


“Load-leveling” is a process for better matching generation with wide swings in demand during the day by storing energy when demand is low and using it later to meet peak demand.


“Power quality” refers to the voltage, frequency, and harmonic content (frequencies that are integer multiples of the fundamental 60 Hz frequency) of the electricity supply. All these factors must be kept within tight bounds.


When a large system collapses, some areas within its region may have a balance of generation and load. If those areas are able to disconnect from the collapsing system, they will remain powered—a process known as “islanding.”

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