ORIGINAL REPORTING: Solutions For A National Clean Energy Highway Struggle To Emerge
The fight for a national clean energy transmission system emerges on three fronts; Two federal agencies and transmission advocates are exploring the possibility of a “macrogrid”
Herman K. Trabish, May 3, 2022 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: New Energy is being built faster than ever but getting it delivered remains a serious challenge.
After years of studies showing a national transmission system is the most cost-effective way to meet growing clean energy and carbon reduction mandates, there is still no nation-spanning solution.
New initiatives at the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are refocusing on that goal. A modern “macrogrid” could access the nation’s diverse clean energy from coast to coast to affordably protect against extreme weather, cyber, and demand spike reliability threats, power system analysts told a March 15 Department of Energy (DOE) webinar.
“A national macrogrid system is an important concept and FERC’s outreach to state and regional stakeholders and DOE’s ongoing study can resolve a lot of the doubts about it,” former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chair said James Hoecker, now Husch Blackwell senior counsel and energy strategist and Hoecker Energy Law and Policy principal told Utility Dive.
The longstanding hesitation on building a nationally interconnected system “shows the lack of political courage to deal with tough issues, and recent power outages in California and Texas show the consequences,” added former FERC Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell, now a venture partner with Clean Energy Ventures. “An independent DOE review can show the economic, social, and environmental benefits are far greater than the costs of inaction.”
Today’s patchwork U.S. transmission system is inadequate to integrate new clean energy resources, stop rising electricity costs and protect against operational, environmental and cyber threats to reliability, system analysts agreed. Those can be benefits of new links between now disconnected sections of the system, according to the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2020 Seam study. Such links would allow “substantial energy and operating reserve sharing,” and return $2.50 or more in benefits for every dollar invested in transmission, the study found.
Barriers to linking the seams, especially those to fairly allocating costs among beneficiaries, were highlighted in a June 2020 FERC report to Congress. But if barriers to inter-regional transmission building were overcome, a national transmission system could offer even better solutions than stitching together the seams, Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG) Associate Director Debra Lew told the DOE webinar. ESIG’s proposed high voltage direct current (HVDC) backbone “macrogrid” version of a national system “is the electric system’s national interstate highway system,” Lew told Utility Dive. A macrogrid can cost-effectively deliver the new clean energy resources needed to meet the Biden 2035 100% clean electricity goal, she said… click here for more
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