Transmission is a federal priority, but roadblocks remain
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- May 4, 2021 9:22 pm GMTMay 4, 2021 4:35 pm GMT
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Much to the chagrin of industry insiders, the conversation surrounding a move towards renewables centered around generation for far too long. How we were supposed to transport the clean energy was rarely mentioned in mainstream news coverage or in the statements of optimistic politicians. Luckily, transmission is finally getting the attention it deserves. In a speech given to Congress last week, President Joe Biden emphasized the importance of expanding the nation’s transmission infrastructure through his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. The speech came days after his administration announced $8.25 billion in loans for transmission projects.
It seems transmission’s stubborn PR problem is officially over: Important people finally understand how vital power lines are. However, we’re not out of the woods yet. Bad policy still stands in the way of a transmission overhaul. Almost all the major transmission projects the country needs are inter-state, but transmission projects are approved at the state level. This means developers must go through numerous sitting and permitting processes.
The regulatory barriers facing transmission developers are highlighted in a new report by the nonprofit Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. The study identifies 22 shovel-ready projects that have been in existence for a decade or more. To get such projects off the ground, the report’s authors suggest streamlining project siting and permitting, passing a tax credit for transmission projects, and direct investment by the federal government.
Direct investment of federal money seems poised to become a reality. However, it remains to be seen what will be done on the regulatory front. Without serious changes to the laws governing transmission development, the U.S. will be destined to fall behind in the race to carbon neutrality.