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SPOTLIGHT

1. TRANSMISSION

Modernizing the grid: a tugboat 'trying to turn a big ocean liner'

The U.S. electric power grid is one of the biggest, most costly machines on Earth. Its value is somewhere in the trillions of dollars, and it currently delivers power to 334 million people in the United States and parts of Mexico and Canada. Its basic technology was settled over 100 years ago as a kind of one-way street that delivers electricity from a network of power plants to passive consumers. But starting about three years ago, the Obama administration realized that without a 21st-century technology boost, the grid might not be able to support its Clean Power Plan. The grid would have to perform more like a two-way street to provide renewable energy quickly enough to lower the risks of climate change.

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