Modernizing and Growing the North American Electricity Distribution Grid

March 3, 2018 |

The electricity that we rely upon is dependent on a powerful and robust distribution grid—a grid that has not seen substantial infrastructure upgrades for over 40 years. The modern electricity customer has an expectation for ultra-reliability, which is currently dependent on an antiquated system with components that have been pushed to their design limits over decades of increasing demand by modern devices. In response, utilities are making plans to modernize the grid. In fact, it is forcasted that U.S. and Canadian electric distribution capital expenditures will exceed $40 billion1 by 2020. These investments include rebuilding existing systems, installing new infrastructure to meet expanding residential demand, and deploying automation technologies. Moreover, utilities are preparing for (and sometimes already) deploying citywide systems for the biggest disrupter to the electrical grid since electric air conditioning – the electric vehicle.

To maximize these investments, utilities are looking to do more with less including meeting reliability requirements and achieving return on equity within the constraints of the allowable rate base. Utilities are also facing a skills shortage due to an aging workforce and considering outsourcing an increased amount of work to design firms. These trends could result in utilities spending significant resources onboarding contractors and compromising a focused approach around meeting reliability requirements and business objectives.

To avoid this, Kiewit is helping clients by applying our construction knowledge and distribution design experience to produce deliverables that are consistent, familiar and easy to implement for their crews. As distribution networks grow and modernize, our teams are positioned to work as a seamless extension of our client’s teams from design to construction. After all, the distribution system is the closest point of contact from utilities to their ratepayers. Our engineers have thorough knowledge of the electrical design standards and systems that are unique to each facility and region. To meet local demand, we are opening offices across the U.S., with the newest locations in Raleigh, Detroit, Houston, and Portland and additional openings planned for 2018, staying actively involved in the communities where we live, work and play.

About the author:

Sam Scupham leads Emerging Markets within Kiewit’s Power Delivery group. His career in power and energy over the past 16 years includes extensive experience in conventional and renewable power generation, energy storage and electric vehicles. Sam is responsible for Kiewit’s market expansion in electric distribution engineering services.


1. CThree Group Annual Report


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