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Archive for the ‘transmission’ Category

Get smaht

Posted by Rich Sweeney on March 3, 2009

KP’s Lynne Kiesling kicked off a 5 part post on smart grid technology, economics and policy yesterday. For those interested in this much talked about but largely misunderstood concept, you’d be hard pressed to find a better teacher than Lynne.

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Sweet article on transmission and renewables

Posted by Rich Sweeney on January 9, 2009

In the MIT Technology Review. Lots of good information indicating that the main barriers to renewable energy investment are bureaucratic, not technological or economic. Which means that any sort of green stimulus aimed at promoting renewable electricity would be pretty useless unless its simultaneously accompanied by regulatory overhaul. And I definitely don’t see that happening before President’s Day.

Here’s just one interesting passage from the article. Def check out the whole thing:

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, which manages the grid in a region covering portions of 15 states from Pennsylvania to Montana, has received hundreds of applications for grid connections from would-be energy developers whose proposed wind projects would collectively generate 67,000 megawatts of power. That’s more than 14 times as much wind power as the region produces now, and much more than it could consume on its own; it would represent about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. But the existing transmission system doesn’t have the capacity to get that much electricity to the parts of the country that need it. In many of the states in the region, there’s no particular urgency to move things along, since each has all the power it needs. So most of the applications for grid connections are simply waiting in line, some stymied by the lack of infrastructure and others by bureaucratic and regulatory delays.

Posted in Renewables, transmission | 1 Comment »

More green infighting – federalism edition

Posted by Rich Sweeney on January 8, 2009

Or “Electricity Transmission Clusterf*ck Story of the Day”. From Climate Wire (more CT commentary on transmission here):

States defend turf as Congress weighs expanding power over grid (01/08/2009)

Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter

A top utility regulator expressed concern yesterday about states losing approval power over proposed transmission lines, underscoring the challenge of updating the nation’s aging web of power lines as new sources of electricity, like wind, come online.

New Jersey utility regulator Frederick Butler, who presides over a national group of state commissioners, reacted to plans in Congress — and to suggestions by President-elect Barack Obama — that point to growing support for federal jurisdiction over the placement of transmission lines that could carry energy between states.

“We don’t like the idea of pre-emption,” Butler told reporters. “We don’t want to be just told what to do. We want to be consulted. We want to have a voice.”

He added that states should have “veto” power over proposed lines that could have negative impacts on the environment and rates in local regions that federal officials might not fully understand.

The assertions come as Congress considers ways to create a national grid that is more reliable, wastes less power and is able to move a growing amount of renewable energy throughout the country. One plan calls for $75 billion to be spent constructing a high-voltage “backbone” that would connect major energy centers around the country.

Congress took the first step toward a national grid in 2005, when it gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to override states in congested areas and to give the go-ahead for new lines that serve the national interest.

So far, that new power is untested. One utility has taken advantage of the rule, though the outcome is still pending. Southern California Edison is asking FERC for permission to build a 270-mile line from the Palo Verde nuclear plant near Phoenix to Palm Springs, Calif. Edison appealed to FERC after the Arizona Corporation Commission rejected the plan, saying it would cause environmental damage and boost prices in Arizona.

Obama wants a ‘whole new’ grid

It’s unclear where Obama stands on the thorny issue of pre-empting states. But he has expressed support for significant transmission upgrades. In October, he said one of the “most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid.”

“Because if we’re going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers like Chicago,” he added.

Butler pointed to a downside to that notion, though he generally agrees that upgrades are needed.

Installing a superhighway of transmission lines makes it easier to access power produced from faraway coal plants, he said, rather than work harder on local efforts to save energy. It could also mean that developers are less likely to build local alternative energy projects, like wind.

“The more transmission you build, the less impetus there is to do efficiency,” Butler said.

But he acknowledged that “strategically sited” transmission lines could bypass power plants in coal states, while running through countryside laced with wind farms to promote clean energy.

Butler is president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a group that includes regulators from every state. The diverse origins of the association’s members make it difficult for them to agree on specific policies.

Butler, for example, acknowledged that he’s “open to the concept” of a nationally administered grid. But that’s not a consensus viewpoint within the association of regulators, many of whom vigorously defend their states’ jurisdiction over transmission siting.

“I’m open to the concept of having someone at the national level oversee this, because … there is some need for a national grid that is not a byzantine, jerry-rigged” grid, he said. “But at the same time, I don’t think states should be pre-empted out of that.”

Regulators sitting on the association’s climate change task force are assembling in Washington over the next two days to update its policy on global warming. Currently, the group supports federal legislation to reduce greenhouse gases through a cap-and-trade program.

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Green infighting

Posted by Rich Sweeney on January 7, 2009

From Greenwire, a preview of what’s to come as government attempts to promote green investment. Like any other market, the renewable energy and efficiency market consists of both complements AND substitutes. It’s really hard not to appear to be picking winners in these situations, which inevitably invokes outcry from the losers. In this instance, interest groups backing energy efficiency and distributed renewable energy are attempting to block a large transmission investment aimed at bringing geothermal and solar energy to badly congested markets. We’re gonna need all of the above if we are gonna significantly reduce our carbon emissions from electricity, but that doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot to the critics listed here. I’ll post the whole article below the jump.

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Posted in Renewables, transmission | 3 Comments »

Wise(r) words on renewables and transmission

Posted by Rich Sweeney on December 16, 2008

Last week the NYTimes ran a new story with a familiar punchline: despite noble ambitions, many states look poised to fall well short of their renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandates. The piece quotes LBNL’s Ryan Wiser, who has written and research extensively on renewable electricity. While the article talked mainly about loopholes and small regulatory incentives to comply, Wiser concludes with this blunt statement:

“It comes down in a lot of ways to transmission, ultimately.”

Where have I heard that before? Actually in my previous post I forgot to link to the paper I mentioned, which I co-authored with Shalini Vajjhala, Karen Palmer, and Anthony Paul. In it we show that increasing interregional transmission capacity can increase renewable penetration in a baseline scenario (absent any national RPS), and decrease the cost of renewable energy credits if a national RPS is enacted.

Also, in response to the last post I got a useful email directing me to WIRES, a coalition of transmission interests working on public policy to alleviate congestion and promote renewables. For those interested, there’s lots of useful information on their website, including a new report done by CRA on integrating locationally constrained resources.

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It’s the remix to transmission

Posted by Rich Sweeney on December 10, 2008

Barack Obama has promised to make it rain on the energy industry.

He should start by investing in high-voltage electricity transmission.

Lots more below the jump.

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Posted in Electricity, transmission | 13 Comments »