Last August's widespread blackout in the Northeast brought new attention to Department of Energy warnings that increasing power outages were costing the U.S. economy about $100 billion per year. Investment in the U.S. high-voltage transmission grid dropped from $5 billion per year in 1975 to the current $2.5 billion per year, and experts forecast that while grid capacity will increase by only 6% through 2012, demand on the system will rise by 20%.

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