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Will the Biden Administration's transmission plan encourage jaded developers?

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
  • 710 items added with 344,400 views
  • Jun 24, 2022

Last month, the federal government approved the 416-mile Gateway South transmission project that will connect Wyoming to Utah and provide for the transmission of clean energy. It was a major win for the Biden Administration, whose Building a Better Grid initiative has sought to expedite the permitting and speed of such projects seeking approvals. 

Yet earlier this month, we were reminded of the frustrations of transmission developers who have been waiting years, and, in some cases, more than a decade to see their projects get off the ground. Bloomberg did a story on the SunZia project, a 550-mile, 4.5-gigawatt transmission project that was proposed more than 15 years ago to transport wind energy from New Mexico to places like Los Angles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. 

From the Bloomberg story: 

Line developer David Getts has been waiting more than 16 years and four presidential administrations to see his company’s SunZia project cross the finish line. He’s now planning a service date of 2025.

“Putting that much money at risk in one project is kind of crazy,” Getts, general manager of SouthWestern Power Group, told a crowd of several hundred energy lawyers and regulators gathered in Washington last month. “Very few companies in the United States will ever do that again, and I can tell you my company won’t."

The project has cost $2.5 billion to date and now has a service date of 2025. The project will be useful in meeting the country's climate and clean energy goals, but even with the Building a Better Grid plan, there is a level of discouragement developers who have been in the game for a long time must be feeling.

With a $2.5 billion program to help permitting and to secure power purchase agreements for the energy coming through these transmission projects, there should be no shortage of developers who are game, but I think the Biden Administration would do well to do what they can to alleviate the concerns of visionary developers like Getts who have been in the game for decades but have been become frustrated with the system and too disenchanted to make significant future investments. 

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