Unleashing the Clean Energy Revolution through Transmission

The U.S. Has A Transmission Problem

Right now, there are at least 2,000 gigawatts of renewable energy waiting for permission to connect to power lines in the United States, which is more than the total capacity of the country’s existing power plants. Wait times to connect new power plants to the grid can reach five years or more. Without rapidly improving transmission, the United States will not be able to achieve Biden’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2035 or provide cheaper, more reliable electricity to American households. If the United States can’t build new transmission at a faster pace, roughly 80 percent of the emissions reductions expected from the Inflation Reduction Act–the largest climate legislation in U.S. history–might not happen

of renewable energy projects waiting for approval to be connected to powerlines in the United States... more than the total capacity of the country’s existing power plants.
1000 GW

That’s why Congress needs to pass legislation significantly expanding transmission for clean energy.

Increasing access to clean energy will help tackle the climate crisis by ensuring the reliability of the grid and reducing consumer’s bills. Renewable energies like wind and solar are quickly becoming the least expensive source of energy and we need to make sure as many people as possible get access to these clean, abundant energy sources. 

We must keep the pressure on to make sure Congress hears loud and clear:
 We want more clean energy now!

Pass a GOOD transmission bill that prioritizes clean energy, climate change, and environmental justice. 

A Good Transmission Bill Will Do These 3 Things:

Prioritize Clean Energy

Upgrade the grid to handle distributed energy generation and energy storage: [need something explaining that here]

Institute leadership with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): A lack of leadership has led to stalled decisions and years-long delays. This is in part due to grid buildouts being run by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), which are run by the utilities and state authorities in those regions. For some utilities, it’s a conflict of interest to plan new lines that accommodate renewables. And states don’t typically play nice with each other planning long distance lines. FERC needs to play a more active role in managing RTOs. FERC should also be able to exclude routine transmission upgrades from years-long federal environmental review.

Address Climate Change

Consider long-term planning with FERC: [something about  how FERC, more so than RTOs, should also be able to help with long-term planning with the country’s goals in mind.]

Create climate resiliency with microgrids: A microgrid is a local electrical grid with defined electrical boundaries, acting as a single and controllable entity. It is able to operate in grid-connected and in island mode. Microgrids can provide important resilience to grid disturbances, like the extreme blackouts that overtook Texas during the freak winter storm, so should be integrated as an essential structure in transmission buildout. They are resilient to extreme weather, offer more control over energy generation and deployment, and can operate independently or as part of the electrical network.

Improve interregional transmission: This is also essential for dealing with consequences of climate change. During the cold snap in Texas, energy generation failed partially because neighboring RTOs could not send power supplies from their areas to provide temporary power. We instead should require RTOs to make the upgrades so they can send up to 30 percent power to a neighboring region if ever faced with that kind of situation again. This transfer capability requirement would make the transmission system more reliable and resilient. 

Include Greenhouse Gas Projections in NEPA Reviews: The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes: making decisions on permit applications, adopting federal land management actions, and constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities. Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. When preparing a NEPA document, FERC should consider the proposed action’s possible effects on climate change. It should identify and propose alternative actions that would eliminate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the proposed action. 

Promote Environmental Justice

Early and Sustained Community Engagement:  Agencies should be required to engage in a meaningful process to develop, negotiate, and enter into a community benefit agreement with stakeholders. 

Include Cumulative Impact Analysis in NEPA Reviews: Environmental Impact Statements should evaluate and propose alternative actions that do not cause overburdened communities to bear cumulative environmental pollution impacts worse than those borne in other communities within a geographic area.

Require Community Impact Reports: The EPA should maintain the authority and duty to prepare community impact reports to assess a proposed action’s consequences for environmental justice, and propose alternatives or remedies to these issues.

Establishment of Environmental Justice offices: Legislation should codify the establishment of the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and of the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council. These offices would improve coordination between federal agencies on Environmental Justice matters.

Create Environmental Liaisons for Tribal and Environmental Justice Communities: FERC and agencies of jurisdiction should also establish Environmental Justice liaisons to support ongoing consultation and provide meaningful public involvement opportunities during the development of a NEPA document for Environmental Justice communities and Tribal nations. 

CCAN 2024 Transmission Priorities Factsheet

Current Legislative Efforts:

 Multiple efforts at transmission reform are currently in play. Here’s what’s at stake:

  • In 2023, Senator John Hickenlooper and Representative Scott Peters proposed the BIG WIRES Act,  which would update and streamline the country’s patchwork energy transmission system. 
  • Also in 2023, Senator Martin Heinrich introduced the Facilitating America’s Siting of Transmission and Electric Reliability (FASTER) Act, which addresses key obstacles slowing down the siting, planning, and permitting process. 
  • Most recently in the House, Representatives Sean Casten and Mike Levin introduced the Clean Energy and Transmission Electricity Act, which would encourage the development of new transmission lines to carry renewable power where it’s needed while protecting the rights of communities to provide input on where lines are built and to benefit from their construction. 

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