Green New Deal Hits Road Block: Lack of Power Lines to Deliver Wind & Solar
The major obstacle is one of many that has been overlooked in the Democrats
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's Green New Deal is now faced with even more glaringly apparent problems, the need for an overhaul of the transmission lines that currently deliver wind and solar power.
The major obstacle is one of many that has been overlooked in the Democrats radical plan to revamp the economy and address climate change.
Without addressing transmission lines, the Green New Deal's plans for h 100 percent renewable or clean electricity won't be viable.
The resolution fails to mention transmission lines but does call for repairs and upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure.
“It's not getting enough attention from policymakers,” said Rob Gramlich, president of Grid Strategies LLC.
“People often want to believe the myth you can get to high renewable energy without transmission networks. Unfortunately, that is not going to work.”
The transmission lines are essential to transport electricity to areas with plenty of wind or solar to consumers in locations that are unable to generate significant renewable power.
“There are major areas of the country where we have significant wind and solar resources that cannot reach market,” said Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel of Advanced Energy Economy.
Policymakers are at risk overbuilding the electricity system with excess wind and solar if they fail to address U.S. transmission system expansion, according to the Economists from the Brattle Group report.
The Brattle Group projects $30 billion to $90 billion would need to be spent on transmission by 2030 to “cost-effectively” serve “the coming electrification of the American economy."
This means more use wind and solar for electricity along with more drivers using transportation.
Major long-distance transmission projects will need 0 or more years to be approved and developed - mainly because of a diffuse permitting process that is subject to obstruction because of local resistance from people residing near the proposed power lines.
But unlike natural gas pipelines, the federal government has little power to approve transmission lines.
“We have a real challenge in this country in siting transmission,” said Dan Reicher, the assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration.
“In-between states that only serve as locations of the line don't see much benefits and see it more as a problem, and can stop it from being built.”
One example is the rejection of the Northern Pass transmission line project in New Hampshire last year; which would import zero-emission hydroelectric power from Quebec to New England, despite leaders in Massachusetts wanting to use the hydropower to meet clean energy goals.
According to The Washington Examiner: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates energy transmission, has been wrestling recently with the need to build and improve lines to facilitate renewables.
It plans to start a process this week of reviewing its policies for setting rates and incentives for the construction of transmission lines — a move the Trump administration, no fan of the Green New Deal, has encouraged.
“A top priority of mine is making sure we have policies in place to ensure the grid of the future,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said.
“As we look to transmission, there are a host of things we can do.”
FERC does not have authority to directly site transmission projects, though, so there is a limit to what it can do.
Chatterjee and others say FERC's current process is not working as expected because it does not provide extra incentive for long-distance power lines, which are riskier than smaller projects that are easier to build.
“It is unquestionably the case that these long lines are harder to site and more difficult to get past the finish line,” said Travis Kavulla, director of energy and at the R Street Institute.
“The reward for that risk should be reflected in the rates that FERC authorizes for long-haul transmission lines.”
Former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat, agrees with Kavulla’s sentiment but said policymakers should be encouraging investments in advanced transmission technologies that can make the existing system more efficient.
He said less than half the capacity of current transmission lines is fully utilized.
Wellinghoff is also excited about the potential of a new underground transmission line planned by two European companies to transport wind and solar from the Midwest to the East Coast, an untested method that is more expensive than an above-ground line, but that could avoid backlash caused by visible power lines.
“The Green New Deal will help elevate the infrastructure discussion on how to make transmission more efficient, smarter, and more cost-effective in delivering renewable resources to load centers,” Wellinghoff said.
“We should do it a smart and not stupid way, and not put in the same old lines and wires.”