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.