Transmission and lackluster renewable adoption
- Feb 24, 2022 2:43 pm GMT
Scrolling through my power feed this morning, I came across this article about the United State's lackluster renewable progress last year. According to the article, the U.S. installed just under 28 gigawatts (GW) of wind, solar, and energy storage capacity, which is half of what would be needed annually to hit Biden's 2035 targets. The article correctly pinpoints two big causes of the renewable slowdown last year: Covid-19 restrictions that hindered wind projects and sanctions against China that made it harder to get silicon needed for solar. However, the article doesn't mention the consistent hurdle to renewal adoption in America: transmission.
Renewables have exploded the past decade in the country, but the power lines needed to transport the energy from where it's generated to where it's consumed have lagged behind. This is reflected in climbing electricity bills, despite generation being cheaper than ever. Here's how it was explained in a post at CanaryMedia.com:
“Two trends are clear. First, the cost of generating power has declined significantly — from 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to 4.6 cents per kWh in 2020, using 2020 inflation-adjusted figures. That’s due largely to falling natural gas prices and the growing share of power coming from wind and solar. With renewables making up the vast majority of new generation capacity, the generation share of utility costs is likely to continue declining over the coming decade.
At the same time, 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.”
Our transmission disaster is also captured by a stat reported last year in an Atlantic article on the topic: “Since 2009, China has built more than 18,000 miles of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. The U.S. has built zero.”
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