transmission blue sky

Today on the E&ETV show, OnPoint, Energy Future Coalition and National Clean Energy Transmission Initiative Senior Advisor Bill White was interviewed about the new energy transmission plan that was recently laid out by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) (Docket No. RM10-23-000). White supports and defends expansion of the Nation’s electric grid against a critical November 8th Wall Street Journal editorial, “The Great Transmission Heist.” He argues that FERC’s plan would improve national security, create jobs, help consumers save money, and protect the environment. The new plan would allow renewable energy resources to compete on a level playing field with incumbent utility companies. In order to make renewable energy a viable alternative for people in the United States, FERC is trying to create the infrastructure that would facilitate the transmission of solar and wind energy, typically located in remote areas, to businesses and homes in towns and cities.

In response to the Wall Street Journal’s false accusation that FERC is trying to implement a socialist policy that would make people pay for lines that they do not benefit from, White said that FERC’s proposal would use the same fair cost allocation principles that are currently used at the state, local, and regional levels, but would bring them to a much larger scale. These changes in how to pay for new lines are necessary for meeting increased demand for renewable energy resources like solar, geothermal, and wind. On top of the benefit to the environment, these measures will, over time, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and thereby strengthen national security. The FERC proposal seeks to expand the energy transmission infrastructure to incorporate the renewable energy resources we have at our disposal today and create a framework for growth in the future. The American Wind Energy Association has noted that there is currently a backlog of almost 300,000 megawatts of wind power projects (enough to satisfy approximately 20% of the United States’ electricity needs) in infrastructure queues until additional transmission lines are built to connect them to the power grid. In White’s view, FERC has developed a winning plan to take advantage of this huge renewable energy potential.

Many Americans support taking measures to harness alternative forms of energy. If you want increased renewable energy, however, you need additional transmission infrastructure. There is no denying that the grid is out of date, too small, and unreliable. Problems such as transmission backlogs and major blackouts (remember the Northeast blackout of 2003?) increase ratepayers’ fuel costs. The price of congestion in the electric grid, mainly to infrastructure deficiencies, is about 6% of a consumer’s energy bill. FERC has a solution for these problems. The American Wind Energy Association says that a $4.9 billion investment in transmission will save consumers $1.7 billion a year in fuel costs. That is a three year return on investment. If we make this kind of progress, new energy resources will create a thriving market where jobs will be created for hard working Americans. Bill White is confident that the market will determine the best way to harness renewable energy resources. FERC’s proposal will change the way we use energy in the United States by building a more efficient, environmentally sensitive, and secure transmission grid that will help jump-start the American economy.

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