Inside the Beltway: Renewables Convergence Leads to Transmission Cooperation

By Published On: March 20, 2009

Federal regulators decided to cooperate on transmission siting in order to get new renewable energy supplies online. In a March 17 U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing, Department of Interior secretary Ken Salazar announced an “understanding” between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Interior. Under the pact, the two agencies said they would cooperate on siting transmission lines throughout the U.S. for tapping renewable energy, as well as new domestic fossil-fueled electricity generating facilities. “Renewable energy is too important for turf battles to slow down our progress,” stated Jon Wellinghoff, FERC acting chair. Salazar said he expected that Interior would have a “robust role” in siting transmission lines. He added that Interior is trying to create a zoning process for renewable energy transmission. That, he said, should include about 6,000 miles of new transmission lines. “We have a lot of work to do in a hurry,” said Salazar. In another development, FERC and Interior agreed to cooperate rather than struggle over jurisdiction when it comes to siting offshore renewable energy projects, including wind and tidal power facilities. The federal government is trying to promote domestic energy use and lower dependence on foreign fuels. That includes a five-year plan for leasing oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf. While Salazar showed a map of potential drilling sites that included the entire California coast, he said that the department is concentrating on the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s a delusional concept of energy independence,” countered journalist Robert Bryce. He said nuclear power development also has to be on the table. “The world needs oil and we have to be serious about nuclear expansion,” Byrce added. Senator John McCain also promoted nuclear as a base energy resource. “I see no way of achieving energy independence if nuclear energy [isn’t added] otherwise it’s a dead stop.”

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