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As transmission projects garner support, scrutiny is still needed.

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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
  • 753 items added with 371,855 views
  • May 31, 2022

The race to a clean and sustainable energy grid has made transmission projects a household issue. The globe's aging infrastructure is not prepared to handle the revolution into clean, renewable energy. A modernized transmission network is critical to answering the crisis of climate change and energy sustainability. 

Yet, as a new investigation from the New York Times shows, as much as we need to get these transmission projects pushed through as quickly as possible, we still need intense scrutiny from government agencies and watchdogs so that ratepayers are not suffering unnecessary costs for unnecessary projects that take advantage of the very real need of transmission modernization.

 Florida Power and Light has pushed through a nearly 200-mile, 161kilovolt transmission line that is going to cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars and essentially guarantees a return on the project of $1 billion for the utility. The voltage of the line allowed it to fly under the radar of regulators, and many experts see the expensive line as not only a burden to ratepayers but as a project that won't provide much benefit—only 3% of transmission lines are as small as 161kilovolts, and they average five miles in length. This transmission line is going to lose a ton of electricity traveling over such a gargantuan distance. It could do little to help the state's electric network while placing a burden on ratepayers. However, it will offer a windfall to the utility and its investors. 

The project was tucked into a rate increase and approved by the regulators who were tasked with reviewing it. Transmission as an issue has benefited from calls for faster review and permitting. We can't get sloppy, though. Ratepayers are the ones who are going to have to shoulder the burden of bad projects while utilities almost always see a financial return on investment. While our energy realities have changed in the last hundred years, one thing certainly has not: utilities still need a watchful eye over their shoulders. 



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