Cross-posted from AOL Energy, published 11/13/12.
It’s All Connected – Regional Transmission Planning in the Southeast
by Bill White
More than two weeks have passed since Hurricane Sandy brought the Eastern Seaboard to a standstill. Although life is slowly returning to normal, Sandy joins a long series of painful reminders of how dependent 21st century America is on reliable electricity: it powers nearly every facet of our lives. The potential silver lining in the wake of Sandy’s devastation is the influx of interest in our outdated and inadequate transmission grid, highlighting long ignored issues from the benefits of buried transmission lines to the importance of an integrated, redundant, resilient grid – built to withstand even Sandy’s fury.
A robust and modern electric grid is also essential for taking advantage of America’s unmatched renewable energy resources. Wind and sunlight cannot be delivered to customers from their best sources – mostly remote areas and offshore – using railcars and pipelines like coal, oil, and gas; they need transmission lines. In the Southeast, where wind and solar are relatively scarce, transmission lines are critical for bringing cheap and abundant renewable resources from other regions. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which provides power to nearly all of Tennessee and other Southeastern areas, is now importing wind power from eight wind farms in the Midwest. Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, last year made one of the largest wind purchases ever from producers in Oklahoma.
Several changes under way promise to accelerate the nascent interregional “trade” in cheap renewable energy. Dozens of outdated and inefficient coal plants across the Southeast will be shutting down over the next several years as new air pollution rules take effect; businesses and consumers are demanding more clean energy; and vehicle electrification is growing rapidly, especially in the Southeast. Nearly three percent of electric vehicles sold in the United States this year were registered in Tennessee. Not coincidentally, almost all of these were Nissan Leafs – soon to be manufactured at a plant in Smyrna. But electric vehicles are only as green as the power plants that charge them, and in the Southeast today, coal generates about half of the electricity. How the region invests in transmission will largely determine whether the power from retiring coal plants will be replaced by renewable resources.
A new planning framework unveiled last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Order 1000, asks utility transmission planners to work together to solve the transmission challenge across large regions by avoiding duplication and building only those upgrades needed to strengthen the grid, improve reliability, increase efficiency, and integrate large amounts of renewable energy.
Additionally, Swiss engineering firm ABB Group announced a technological breakthrough last week that could solve the problem of transmission losses over very long distances. ABB’s new circuit breaker for high-voltage DC lines – far more efficient than AC lines over long distances – will allow large amounts of renewable electricity to be delivered over thousands of miles, for instance, from Iowa to Tennessee.
Americans have always responded to crises by replacing what was lost with something better, stronger, and smarter: building an even stronger foundation for future growth and prosperity. Let’s not wait for the next Sandy to modernize our electric grid – our most important infrastructure investment for the future of the Southeast – and the nation.
Bill White is a Senior Vice President at David Gardiner & Associates, with more than fifteen years of managing public-private partnerships advancing action on energy and climate change.
For its latest event, Americans for a Clean Energy grid brought the battle for a domestic clean energy build-out into contentious territory: coal country. ACEG hosted the Southeast Clean Energy Transmission Summit in Nashville, Tennessee on November 14th along with co-hosts Vanderbilt University, Clean Line Energy, ITC Holdings, and WIRES—each of whom supplied a panelist of their own. The summit brought together several booming voices in the energy industry: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioner John R. Norris, PJM Interconnection President & CEO Terry Boston, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, among others, to speak about the benefits of clean energy transmission. Discussion touched on the shifting dynamics of the energy industry, the Southeast’s lag in clean energy build-out, and the challenges behind planning, siting, and allocating costs for new transmission wires. If one point resonated above all, however, it’s that in order to have the clean energy future that the United States wants to see, there must be transmission wires spanning the country to support it. If power plants are our heart and distribution lines our nerves, then transmission is our backbone.
Commissioner Norris offered an even more compelling analogy in reference to the need for regions to cooperate in their planning:
“I’m an Iowa farm kid. We raised hogs on my farm growing up, and the neighbors raised cattle. When we needed to put a new fence in for the hogs, we didn’t just go put a hog fence in right next to the cattle fence, that didn’t make a lot of sense. It made a lot more sense to talk to that cattle farmer and see if we could share poles, and we could pay for the woven wire on the bottom and he could pay for the barbed wire on the top. It just kinda made sense to me that we increased communication across regions so we could figure out how to make our neighboring systems cooperate and share resources.”
Overall, the day was chock-full with quotables:
“The Southeast lags the rest of the country in renewable energy development. Not a single Southeastern state is in the top 25.” – Jim Rossi, Professor of Energy & Administrative Law at Vanderbilt University
“Power engineering is not rocket science…it’s much more important.” – Terry Boston, President & CEO of PJM Interconnection
“Grid manufacturing and construction alone will create 150,000 to 200,000 permanent, high quality jobs nationwide for the next 20 years.” – Jim Hoecker, Counsel, WIRES Group
“Multiple benefits to us [of transmission] are obvious, but there’s an equally strong opposing opinion that needs to hear the story.” – David Till, General Manager for Transmission Strategies, Tennessee Valley Authority
“Wind is truly a home-grown, American industry.” – Christy Omohundro, Regional Representative, American Wind Energy Association
“It was hard to give up my Mustang, but the power in a Nissan Leaf is fantastic.” –Mayor Karl Dean, City of Nashville
The event drew in local stakeholders ranging from media outlets to electrical wire workers to students to environmental groups. Other panelists and moderators included representatives from AOL Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nashville Public Radio, Southern Company, Southern Environmental Law Center, GLWN, Oak Ridge National Lab, The Tennessean, Nashville Public Radio, Nissan, and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association.
YouTube links for the event will be provided shortly.
The next Americans for a Clean Energy Grid’s event is being planned for January in Denver, Colorado.
We know that there are big decisions coming up that will affect the future of energy in America. We know that clean energy can only become mainstream if there is infrastructure to support it. And we know that the Southeast is a critical region in this national conversation.
That’s why we’re having the Southeast Clean Energy Transmission Summit this Wednesday, November 14th, from 9:00am to 4:30pm CST.
As important as these discussions are, many can’t make it to Nashville for the event. So we’ve created a live webcast of the entire event, so that you can stay up to speed on what industry, government, and thought leaders are saying about these important issues.
Tune in from anywhere that you can get an internet signal! We will be live-tweeting the event as well, so if you have questions during the event or just join the conversation, tweet to us @CleanEnergyGrid with the hashtag #SEgrid.
We hope to see you at the event—but if you can’t make it, we hope you’ll join us online.
We are pleased to announce the participation of Nashville Mayor Karl Dean at the Southeast Clean Energy Transmission Summit next week. Mayor Dean will be part of a panel discussion on the role electric vehicles have to play with respect to the grid in the Southeast. Mayor Dean’s enthusiasm for clean energy and participation in the panel underlines the broad interest in the clean energy sector throughout the region.
Today marks just over a week before the November 14th event, which will convene elected officials as well as representatives from leading clean energy and transmission organizations to discuss critical elements of energy development in the Southeast.
In addition to Mayor Dean, a number of other exciting speakers have been added to the event agenda, including:
- Vignesh Gowrishankar, Sustainable Energy Advocate, National Resources Defense Council will inform the clean energy grid panel on federal policies relating to energy efficiency and the deployment of renewable energy.
- Doug Motley, Director of Development, ITC Holdings Corp. brings private sector expertise from the largest independent electricity transmission company in the country.
- Frank Rambo, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center will provide unique insight into the environmental implications of the Southeast’s changing energy profile.
- Stan Hadley, Senior Researcher, Oak Ridge National Lab will speak to the potential for the manufacturing strengths of the Southeast to inform overall grid deployment.
Join these experts in what promises to be an interesting discussion about clean energy, transmission policies, and their implications for business, manufacturing, and a brighter energy future for the Southeast.
With the election less than a week away and with a post-Sandy public focused on the importance of a modern, safe and stable electric grid, there has never been a better time to convene experts from across the nation to discuss the future of energy in the Southeast.
As the November 14th Nashville based Southeast Clean Energy Summit approaches, our list of speakers keeps growing. In the past few days, we’ve had three exciting new additions:
Terry Boston is the President and CEO of PJM Interconnection, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states and DC. He is returning to Tennessee where he served for 35 years at TVA, most recently serving as TVA’s Executive Vice President. Mr. Boston will be a keynote speaker.
Bradley Smith runs 4R for Nissan, a department which is in the business of re-using electric vehicle batteries and will offer a unique perspective on why a modern grid is critical for the success of electric vehicles.
David Till coordinates inter-regional transmission for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Through his work for the local utility, he’ll be able to provide unique insight into the Southeast’s energy future.
These three speakers join a host of othersin discussing the future of energy and the importance of a modern grid.
We hope you’ll join us as this important event.
The Southeast Clean Energy Transmission Summit to take place in Nashville Nov 14:
Five reasons you can’t miss it
In the wake of a presidential election, a quickly changing regional energy landscape, and clean energy and transmission issues requiring major decisions in the near future, the Southeast Clean Energy Summit will convene leaders to discuss the current status of transmission planning in the Southeast, what decisions need to be made, and what our energy future has in store.
There has never been a more pressing time to address our nation’s grid transmission needs, particularly in the Southeast:
• Expansion and modernization of the high-voltage transmission network is urgent, particularly in the Southeast.
• Renewable technology in Tennessee has enormous potential and transmission is critical to its deployment. The Tennessee Valley Authority partners with wind farms outside its jurisdiction, since importing renewable electricity is cheaper than developing local resources. Imports aren’t possible without savvy transmission planning.
• Developing the transmission grid in Tennessee means new economic opportunities. Increased demand for electric infrastructure and renewable technologies will infuse the state with manufacturing and other economic opportunities, paving the way for new jobs.
• Transmission has implications for greenhouse gas emissions reductions – a more strategically planned grid can harness the bounty of renewable energy available in the region and have a huge impact on our environment.
• Top experts will be discussing the newest developments in transmission planning and technology. Industry leaders, national regulators, local elected officials, and clean energy advocates (full agenda below) will discuss what the future holds for meeting electricity demand in the Southeast.
Our speakers will help the audience – ranging from industry employees to local media outlets to environmental advocates and the general public – navigate the interconnected, “wiry” world of transmission. These experts will include FERC Commissioner John R. Norris, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid Managing Director John Jimison, Clean Line Energy Partners’ Executive Vice President Jimmy Glotfelty, The WIRES Group Senior Counsel Jim Hoecker, Southern Company’s John Lucas, Duke Energy’s Senior Vice President Phil Grigsby, Southern Environmental Law Center’s Jill Tauber, Global WIND Network’s Ed Weston, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Joe Garcia, and others.
8:15am – light breakfast
8:45am – welcome and introductions
9:00am – Panel I: Post election perspectives on clean energy, transmission, federal policy, and
their impacts on the Southeast
10:00am – Panel II: The energy internet: planning and building the clean energy grid
11:15am – Panel III: The Southeast’s changing energy mix: how clean energy transmission can
make electricity cheaper and more reliable
12:30pm – Lunch and keynote speech by FERC commissioner, John Norris
1:45pm – Panel IV: Much more than wires: how a robust and modern grid plays to the
Southeast’s manufacturing strengths and favorable business climate
3:15pm – Panel V: Electric vehicles and the greening of our grid
4:30 – Concluding remarks
Hope to see you there!