With permitting reform discussions occurring in Congress this week and debt ceiling negotiations continuing, major national renewable energy organizations sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging the enactment of bipartisan transmission permitting legislation that builds on the transformational clean energy policies included in the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Research shows that we will need to double the pace of historical transmission deployment in order to maximize the carbon emission reduction benefits of this historic legislation,” the groups explain in the letter. “These reforms are essential to realization of the 21st century transmission grid America needs to bolster economic competitiveness, ensure grid reliability in the face of increasingly frequent severe weather and achieve the clean energy transition necessary to address the climate crisis.”
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Advanced Energy United (United), and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recommend reforms to the Federal Power Act that:
- Enhance the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) siting authority over critical interstate transmission lines;
- Codify fair cost allocation language that allows transmission developers to recoup the costs of interregional lines from those who benefit, and allow for related petitioning to FERC;
- Improve interregional planning processes to better reflect the multiple benefits of an interconnected grid; and
- Direct FERC to implement an interregional transfer capability requirement to ensure that adjacent transmission planning regions are able to transfer electricity during times of stress on the grid.
The renewable energy organizations also urge Congress to consider policies that modernize National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews while maintaining bedrock environmental protections. These include reforms that:
- Prioritize upfront and meaningful stakeholder consultation, particularly with underserved communities
- Provide reasonable timelines for Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments
- Mandate designation of a lead agency to be responsible for a single environmental document
- Establish a reasonable statute of limitations for judicial review
- Provide sufficient resourcing for permitting agencies
Any negotiated framework that addresses environmental reviews must also include requisite transmission siting and permitting reform, the groups added, noting opposition to any effort to decouple these two important topics.
News item from ACORE
Therein lies the conundrum. FERC has its rulings that promote alternative energy generation, and energy storage. At the wholesale electricity market, there is no clear path for FERC to be an Ombudsman to getting the proper nationwide wholesale transmission interconnections online in a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. For instance in New Mexico SunVia has been “in the works” for over 10 years now. The Southwest intertie has been a “project” for right around 10 years now and interconnections from coast to coast and north to south is important with regional GWh scale energy storage facilities that can handle up to 100 hours of stored energy dispatch. The Federal government has rights of ways along railroad tracks, intraState and interState pipelines and interState freeways that can be used to route these transmission projects from coast to coast and north to south. This project lethargy is costing money when an entity postpones a project or is forced through ‘another’ negotiation with every State border or even county the project crosses. Make these major transmission projects along Federal rights of ways and use UHVDC and bury them deep to keep them out of sight and out of harms way. These ‘decarbonization’ by 2035, 2040, 2050 will never happen at this rate.