Our Saving Grace
- Jan 24, 2022 11:18 pm GMT
It’s no secret that the United States lags behind when it comes to transmission development. Cumbersome regulation and NIMBYISM have led to what feels like a standstill in the segment over the past decade. With respect to ultrahigh-voltage lines, we really have been at a standstill. In an Atlantic article last year, it was pointed out that: ““Since 2009, China has built more than 18,000 miles of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. The U.S. has built zero.”
Our transmission woes have been compounded by a rapid renewable buildout. It’s an unfortunate matter of fact that most renewable rich parts of the country are far away from the big metropolitan areas that need most energy. As a result, costs to transport electricity have gone way up, while generation gets cheaper and cheaper. This was explained in a recent post at CanaryMedia.com:
“the costs of the infrastructure needed to deliver power rose from 2.6cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to 4.3 cents per kWh in 2020 — nearly equal to the cost of generating the power itself. Delivery costs have in fact been rising steadily since 1998, according to the EIA — an outgrowth of the need for new grid infrastructure to replace aging lines and equipment and accommodate new wind and solar power farms, as well as for new technologies such as smart meters to modernize the utility system. And according to multiple studies, the U.S. will need much bigger grid investments in future years to accommodate the massive growth in renewable energy that will be required to decarbonize the power sector.”
However, recent developments in the industry might just save the country from what seemed like an inevitable transmission wreckoning. Over the past couple years, a litany of states and utilities have warmed to the idea of nuclear energy. This was highlighted in an AP article last week:
“An Associated Press survey of the energy policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that a strong majority— about two-thirds— say nuclear, in one fashion or another, will help take the place of fossil fuels. That momentum could lead to the first expansion of nuclear reactor construction in the U.S. in more than three decades.
Roughly one-third of the states and the District of Columbia say they have no plans to incorporate nuclear power in their green energy goals, instead leaning heavily on renewables. They pointed to advances in energy storage using batteries, investments in the grid for high-voltage interstate transmission, energy efficiency efforts to reduce demand and power provided by hydroelectric dams.”
Nuclear, of course, is not as transmission needy as renewables. Quite the opposite. If a big nuclear rollout really does materialize, how much infrastructure reform will we need? Still a lot, but less.
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