One the biggest problems facing North American power markets is the age of, and lack of investment in, power grids. Over the next few years, we can likely expect some major investments going into refurbishing and expanding North American electricity distribution networks. As an alternative energy investor, you probably want to have the grid issue on your radar. The reason is that as new money pours into this sector, certain firms with interesting technologies to make the grid more efficient could see some substantial upside. The DOE announced, two days ago, that it had awarded funding for five grid-related projects. Among recipients of these funds are two publicly-listed alternative energy companies, namely American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC) and SC Power Systems, which is the US unit of AIM-listed Zenergy Power (LSE:ZEN.L) or (ZNEPF.PK). Grid modernization, like smart metering a year ago, is unlikely to get the average investor especially excited. However, given the degree to which our power grids do need an upgrade, this is definitely an area worth keeping an eye on. DISCLOSURE: AES Contributing Editor Neil Dikeman’s firm has a banking relationship with Zenergy Power.