Low Cost Power
Families and businesses around the country could lower their monthly electric bills if we invest in modernizing and expanding our transmission infrastructure. With no fuel costs, renewable energy sources like wind are often the cheapest power available in the market, but they need a robust grid to deliver these resources to market. In some regions of the country, like the Midwest and Texas, wind energy is already displacing electricity generated by coal- and gas-fired power plants as the cheapest form of generation. Transmission accounts for 7% of the typical electric bill, while generation makes up about 68% of the same bill. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to see that investing a little in transmission to save a lot on generation is a good deal for consumers.
Investing in the transmission grid also reduces congestion, which costs consumers billions of dollars each year – almost $2 billion in the PJM region alone.
Clean Energy Transmission
From the winds of the Great Plains to the desert sun of the Southwest, our nation has vast potential to create clean, cheap, renewable power to mitigate climate change, revitalize our economy, and strengthen our national security. In order to tap this great resource, we must expand and upgrade our high-voltage electric power transmission system to enable massive domestic renewable energy resources currently stranded in our country’s remote areas to be developed and delivered to population centers.
Just as local electric ratepayers currently fund local electricity infrastructure investments, broad-based groups of ratepayers should cover the costs of grid investments that provide broad-based benefits. This will ensure all beneficiaries of the transmission grid support the cost of its development. Cost allocation policies should be as simple as possible (e.g., allocating designated costs proportionately to all load in the interconnection) to avoid lengthy regulatory proceedings and provide greater predictability for developers and ratepayers. Clear cost allocation policies will provide transmission developers and investors with the certainty they need to move projects forward.
New transmission infrastructure lives a long life on paper before ever becoming a reality. Transmission developers must show that a line is needed and would serve the best interests of all affected stakeholders. An interconnection-wide, comprehensive approach that considers a wide variety of factors but that puts a priority of grid safety, reliability, and maximizing clean energy will ensure that future transmission investments serve our needs for decades to come. Further, planning processes should appropriately value the long-term benefits of new transmission assets, to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is built to serve our national needs and goals for decades to come.
Once the need for a power line has been amply proven, an exact pathway must be chosen. This can be a long and slow process within one jurisdiction, but it gets much longer and slower if the power line will cross borders and jurisdictions. Efforts are underway to regionalize planning to streamline and simplify the planning process, and care must be taken to ensure a broad spectrum of stakeholders have input in those processes.