Renewable Energy Industry Calls For Fed Transmission Superhiway

By Published On: June 13, 2008

Wind and solar advocates are urging that federal regulators and taxpayers step up to the transmission plate to allow one fifth of the nation’s energy supply to come from renewable resources. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “needs to be more aggressive about socializing the costs” of transmission projects needed to allow higher levels of alternative energy, said Don Furman, president of the American Wind Energy Association June 12. During a press conference, he said far more than ratepayers benefit from renewable electricity supplies. Thus, project funding should come out of taxpayer pockets as well. He noted that wind, solar, and other renewable energy developers get saddled with the upfront transmission project costs, which inhibit many projects. Katherine Gensler, Solar Energy Industry Association vice president, urged that the transmission cost recovery method FERC approved for the Tehachapi wind resource area be widely adopted. Under it, FERC allowed the costs of the transmission lines to be assumed by Southern California Edison and spread over ratepayers throughout the state, not just those in the utility’s service territory. Last month, the Department of Energy issued a report highlighting the benefits of establishing a national renewable portfolio standard that requires one-fifth of power supplies to come from wind, solar, and other alternative resources by 2030. It would remove the equivalent of 140 million cars off the road, reduce water use by 17 percent, and cut natural gas use by 11 percent, according to the wind association. Wind and solar energy proponents also advocated for regional transmission development, which could be governed by a new set of federal regulations and paid for by taxpayers. This superhighway transmission system would overlay state high voltage systems. It also would fill in gaps when state utilities fail to develop transmission lines. It is estimated to cost $60 billion–costs which would be spread out over 30 years. Next week, hurdles to expanded renewable projects will be the subject of a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.

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