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To get realistic about transmission infrastructure, stakeholder participation and process will need to be centered

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 755 items added with 372,737 views
  • Sep 10, 2021

We have big dreams and big goals about a renewable and net-zero carbon energy future in the U.S. However, to reach the scale that is necessary to at least slow the progression of human-caused climate change, we need the infrastructure in place to deliver the energy produced by solar panels and wind farms and geothermal plants. 

Transmission has enjoyed a boost as a topic of conversation in this renewable energy future. Biden has outlined major investments in updating out old and inefficient transmission lines. However, a new report out of the D.C.-based Niskanen Center highlights that although the conversation around transmission has been about the three Ps—planning, permitting and paying—another two Ps need to enter the fray: participation and process. 

Simple but, in a way, revelatory. We can throw all the money, civil engineering and permitting expediency we want at transmission updates, but local communities need to be part of the conversation and participate, and before we begin setting policies on how much money to allocate and what kind of permits the state and federal governments are ready to smash through, we need to outline a bulletproof process that brings stakeholders to the table—from local communities and landowners to private enterprise and the public sector. Such an undertaking will take a long time, but it could take even longer if the people feel like their government is not listening to them. 

"Whether it emphasizes private capital or public spending, any national transmission plan will have to establish enough credibility and buy-in to be sustainable through changing administrations," the report says. "Policymakers will need to put in hard work to establish the common understanding of costs, benefits, and national priorities on which such a plan must rest. Ensuring the plan’s longevity will also require a deliberate policy design to build and empower constituencies who will defend it far into the future."

That's a key point -- because this project will take so long, it cannot be partisan and will have to, HAVE TO, gain enough support to survive the political changing of guard we can expect in this country. 


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