Just Released! Order “Waking Up to Climate Change” by George Ropes, and receive 25% Discount. Learn More

Close this search box.
Close this search box.

HOME          CATEGORIES          OUR TAKE

OUR TAKE: Time for an Underground Supergrid by ClimateYou editor Abby Luby

Over a week ago, raging winds slammed the U.S. east coast, flooding coastal cities, toppling trees, downing power lines. Here in Westchester, New York, a large county directly north of New York City, most residents lost power for several days and many, like me, for over a week. When my neighborhood was without power it was pretty cold outside. And inside. The day after the storm, driving in a gusty, 25 mile-an-hour wind, we saw 50-year old white pines toppled across roads wrapped in electricity lines like Gulliver falling into the Lilliputians’ tangled web.

Living without electricity resonates strongly right now. At a recent meeting sponsored by the Climate Institute of Washington D.C., I learned first-hand about the North American Supergrid (NAS), a popular proposal to bury a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission network underground, complementing our existing grid to efficiently distribute electricity throughout the continental United States. Replacing our aging, above-ground grid with NAS would be a vast improvement and move us into the 21st century. The electricity NAS provides wouldn’t be susceptible to destructive storms, like the kind of storm we are increasingly experiencing from the impacts of climate change on our weather systems. You can read ClimateYou’s first report on the Supergrid here.

The NAS meeting featured knowledgeable experts who explained how the underground grid would work in a way everyone could understand. John Topping, CEO of the Climate  Institute, gave a comprehensive overview and introduced Charles Bayless, Former CEO, Tucson Electric and Illinois Power. Bayless spoke to the economics of NAS and projected a cost of $500 billion which would be incremental over a 30-year period and paid by rate-payer fees without resorting to federal funds. Also, the project expects to hire between 650,000 and 950,000 workers yearly. NAS would be cost-effective because it would have the ability to tap into any energy provider (think solar, wind), no matter how far away, meaning ample electricity to every state and would greatly reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel plants. Rachel Levine, Chief Engineer at Climate Institute showed us the nuts and bolts of the project and how most of the underground cable would run parallel to roadways, much like the U.S. Interstate Highway system. The underground super grid would have little environmental impact because of its minimal footprint. Most important: the Supergrid would use fortified hardware to protect against extreme weather, electromagnetic pulses, terrorism and geomagnetic disturbances.


The Supergrid received wide recognition in 2016 when Dr. Sandy MacDonald, one of the world’s top weather scientists, and a group of scientists released an NAS study in the publication Nature Climate Change. The Climate Institute immediately jumped on board and bolstered the study with its own feasibility analyses easily justifying that NAS was a necessity. Organizations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies should be taking notice, especially since Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope’s book “Climate of Hope” cites an HVDC Supergrid as “one of the productive means the U.S. might promote de-carbonization.” It’s time to push forward for more traction with policymakers and investors.

I’m not missing thundering gas generator right outside my bedroom window, especially when it started to growl that it needed more gas.  As I huddled around my wood stove five days into the outage, heavy, wet snow was falling and would be 6-8 inches deep by the morning, making any possible repairs to  electric lines more difficult, if at all possible. It took  ConEd crew much longer to fix the lines and restore power.

Climate change weather models show us scenarios that will get predictably worse. Our century old, above-ground grid has become more and more vulnerable. We can’t just hope the NAS becomes a reality, it has to be built.


Comment on this article

ClimateYou moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (New York time) and can only accept comments written in English.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.


More Posts Like This


The Intersection of Computer Engineering & Climate Change: Building a Sustainable Future

In the face of mounting environmental challenges, the role of technology, particularly computer engineering, has emerged as a crucial factor in addressing climate change. This essay explores how computer engineering intersects with climate change and how individuals can leverage their careers to make a positive impact on the


ClimateYou Contributor & Key Supporter Alice Turnbull (1942-2023)

The passing of one of our contributors and most ardent supporters, Alice Turnbull, is a great loss not only to the ClimateYou Alliance but to her community in Port Melbourne, Australia, where she worked tirelessly to revive community parks with eco-friendly indigenous plantings. Alice was born in Scarsdale,


Art Inspired by Climate Change Data

Last week about 20 students stood next to small, blank canvases placed on tables. They were about to pour paint of various colors onto the canvases as part of a unique approach to understanding climate change. The students were in their weekly Natural Disasters class taught by Professor