ORIGINAL REPORTING: Gridlock in transmission queues spotlights need for FERC action
Gridlock in transmission queues spotlights need for FERC action on planning; FERC is calling for stakeholder input to address the backlog in transmission queues holding 70% of the renewables needed for Biden's policy goals.
Herman K. Trabish, July 19, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: This is a huge, long-term challenge. The good news is that FERC has taken it on. The bad news is that there is a long way to go and a short time to get there.
Last week's announcement of a new federal proceeding on transmission planning comes as time gets short to overcome regulatory obstacles and build the modern transmission system needed to beat the climate crisis, developers, former federal regulators and analysts said. New transmission projects can take five to ten years to site, permit and build. Given that, requests for wires to deliver clean energy are stacking up on wait lists for utilities and system operators, and may not be in place when needed to help meet U.S. policy goals.
Current transmission planning is "reactive" and "addresses expansion one customer at a time," Rob Gramlich, Grid Strategies founder and president, said. Gramlich, who has contributed to several studies on transmission planning, said the current model "is not planning for the future resource mix that everybody knows is coming. We need best practice planning guidelines."
On July 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) to develop reforms to improve transmission planning and cost allocation and generator interconnection processes that could answer Gramlich's and others' concerns. FERC's action follows guidance from Congress on taking up transmission planning reform. "We are very excited to see the unanimous support of FERC Commissioners," Gramlich said of FERC's plans to take up transmission reform. "We look forward to participating in the process with other stakeholders."
The FERC announcement is "a huge step forward" because it calls for best practices in portfolio management, scenario planning and will allow "costs to be allocated among all those who benefit," said Nora Mead Brownell, who served as FERC commissioner from 2001 to 2006. "But first," she added, "we should deploy new grid technologies like those recognized in the FERC ruling that provide verifiable independent data instead of relying on the limited data by incumbent transmission owners to make planning decisions."
Planning reforms could be disruptive and costly, some current transmission owners have warned. But many different stakeholders have acknowledged a need for a "best practices" planning process that protects reliability at just and reasonable customer rates, and addresses the increasingly overburdened transmission interconnection queues across the country.
FERC called for stakeholder input to identify next steps, which should begin by recognizing a backlog in transmission queues that is holding back deployment of clean energy, said a joint statement from FERC Chair Richard Glick and Commissioner Allison Clements accompanying its ANOPR… click here for more