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E&E News: FERC Launches First Transmission Reforms in a Decade

Posted by Miranda Willson on Jul 16, 2021

E&E News summarized FERC’s newest transmission reforms and their potential effects, quoting AEE’s Jeff Dennis. Read snippets below and the full article here.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took a long-awaited step yesterday toward ushering in grid reforms that could dramatically speed up renewable energy growth and help advance the Biden administration’s zero-carbon electricity goals.

The agency launched a rulemaking on high-voltage transmission planning — a topic FERC has not addressed holistically in 10 years. President Biden has called for passing a clean electricity standard that would mandate that electric utilities generate all their power from carbon-free resources by 2035, a goal some analysts say could not be achieved without a massive expansion in transmission infrastructure needed to connect far-flung wind and solar farms to hubs of electricity demand.

Revising the current processes for building new high-voltage power lines and other forms of transmission infrastructure is a priority for Chairman Richard Glick, a Democrat, who said he hopes to proceed with the rulemaking “as expeditiously as possible.”

Although renewable resources command a bigger share of the U.S. power mix today than ever before, developers of solar and wind projects say they face challenges when trying to connect their projects to the wider grid. More than 750 gigawatts — a record amount — of power generation is currently sitting in so-called interconnection queues around the country… 

FERC is inviting members of the public to comment on potential changes to interconnection policies that could make it easier for solar and wind farms to come online, it said. The agency is also seeking input on whether the current method of passing the costs of transmission upgrades to generators is fair, among other topics.

The commission is also floating the idea of identifying regions where “large amounts” of renewable energy projects could be built and planning transmission development for those areas, according to the notice. Clean energy groups have proposed that concept in the past, which could help make transmission build-out more efficient and cost-effective.

The advance notice was met with cautious optimism from clean energy groups, some of which have long urged FERC, the Department of Energy and other relevant agencies to help build out the grid to speed the transition away from fossil fuels.

Glick’s stated interest in addressing transmission issues indicates that the commission might move quickly on the topic, said Jeff Dennis, general counsel and managing director at Advanced Energy Economy, a clean energy trade group.

“The Chairman’s statements today, and the focus of the Biden Administration and Congress on transmission as a pillar of the infrastructure package, suggest this will be an item that takes top priority,” Dennis said yesterday in an email, referring to efforts to advance a $600 bipartisan infrastructure deal. “But time will tell.”

Commissioners also took action yesterday on a range of other issues, including a utility’s request for a rate incentive that has emerged as a point of contention.

Commissioners also thanked Chatterjee for his nearly four years at FERC, as the outgoing commissioner offered his own emotional farewell and thanked fellow commissioners, staff and his family for their support.

Read the full article here.

Topics: AEE In The News