Our energy transmission infrastructure is essential to providing Americans access to the power they need. But is our current grid up to the task? On day four of #AmericanCleanPowerWeek we center our attention on the need to upgrade our nation’s transmission infrastructure to meet our climate goals and deliver affordable, reliable clean energy to families and businesses.
Like America’s highways, transmission infrastructure moves low-cost electricity from where it’s produced to where it’s needed. To ensure American families and businesses always have access to power, a 21st-century grid must be reliable, resilient, and interconnected. Our regional electric grids have historically been successful at keeping the lights on and the economy running – however, extreme weather events are straining these systems, even as our power mix shifts to renewable resources that are often far from customers.
To resolve both these problems, we need to invest in and build new transmission to make the entire system more reliable, affordable, and resilient. Some estimates suggest that fully decarbonizing our electric grid will require high-voltage transmission capacity to expand by 60 percent by 2030, and to triple by 2050. Importantly, even with a high proportion of local clean generation (through rooftop solar and storage) significant new transmission will be needed to access diverse utility-scale renewable resources at least cost.
Significant reforms are under consideration that would support the transmission development we badly need. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (better known as the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate as of publication) includes funding to allow the federal government to support certain new transmission lines, as well as clarifying federal authority regarding transmission siting. Bills introduced in the House would provide an investment tax credit for transmission, fund loans and grants for impactful new lines, and fund vital studies of transmission investments for interregional and offshore transmission. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has undertaken an ambitious new rulemaking that holds the potential to fix many of the issues in how transmission is planned and paid for.
Upgraded and expanded transmission lines will keep costs down by bringing diverse types of affordable, clean power to more communities. New battery technology can be used to reduce variability, and modern technologies can ensure that we’re fully using every bit of capacity in our existing transmission system. This will deliver clean power on-demand, right when we need it.
Modernizing our nation’s aging energy transmission infrastructure is essential. Investing in and building new transmission makes the entire energy system more reliable, affordable, and resilient, and ensures that Americans have continued access to the energy they need.