Beyond that, standardization is a crucial component that is sorely lacking from today's grid.
"We tend to use 23 different communication standards in our industry," said Clark Gellings, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute. Ideally, every node on every corner of the grid should be able to communicate with every centralized generation facility and all the substations and other nodes between them. "We talk about a common information model," Gellings said. "That's a wonderful idea, but we're not deploying it."
Another idealized grid characteristic is in fact happening incrementally as we speak: a balance of distributed generation, like rooftop solar panels, with the big bulk generators such as natural gas plants and utility-scale solar and wind.
Today we talk about creating microgrids that, while connecting to the main grid, can function somewhat independently; if this sort of combined form of generation and distribution were implemented from the beginning, there is a good chance that the resilience of the grid -- meaning, its ability to bounce back from disasters like, say, Hurricane Sandy -- would improve dramatically.