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Transmission spending is still rising, but at a slower pace: EIA

image credit: Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Annual spending by major U.S. electric utilities on the transmission system has grown from $9.1 billion (2019 dollars) in 2000 to $40.0 billion in 2019, according to the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Spending includes investment in new transmission infrastructure as well as the operation and maintenance of existing transmission systems. Based on information compiled from reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, EIA said that spending is leveling off but still rose 3% from 2018 to 2019.

Of the $40.0 billion that major utilities spent in 2019, $23.5 billion was on new transmission investment, a 1% increase over the previous year. Utilities spent $16.6 billion on transmission system operations and maintenance in 2019, 7% more than in 2018.

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EIA said that most new transmission investment has been on station equipment, poles, and overhead power lines. These investments replaced aging infrastructure, enhanced grid reliability and resilience during extreme weather events, reduced congestion, and connected to renewable resources. Some recently completed and ongoing major projects include:

  • Minnesota Power energized the 224-mile, 500-kilovolt (kV) Great Northern Transmission line to connect Minnesota to hydropower plants in Canada.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison each spent more than $1 billion in 2019 on new transmission infrastructure, largely on wildfire mitigation measures.
  • Public Service Electric and Gas, serving customers in New Jersey, invested more than $1 billion in transmission infrastructure in 2019 as it entered the second phase of its post-Superstorm Sandy Energy Strong program to harden and improve the transmission system’s resiliency against extreme weather.
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