June 2009

New Study Calls for Reforms to Transmission Grid

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A new report by North America’s transmission grid watchdog confirms what the IBEW and renewable energy advocates have been arguing on Capitol Hill for years. Integrating wind, solar and other forms of green energy into our current power system will require big changes to how the national electrical grid is planned and operated.

One of the North American Electric Reliability Corp. report’s top recommendations is for policy makers to remove barriers to transmission siting, a vital step if we are to install the thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to bring renewable energy to where it is most needed.

“Making wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy a realistic option for consumers requires a commitment to expand our grid system across state lines,” said International President Edwin D. Hill.

Legislators are already taking up NERC’s suggestion, introducing a bill in March that would allow the federal government to override local objections to siting new transmission lines that cross state lines.

“We cannot and will not maximize the production of renewable energy in this country unless we fix the transmission problem,” Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) told a Senate committee meeting in April.

The draft legislation is expected to be incorporated into the comprehensive energy bill currently being debated in Congress.

The report also recommends that the patchwork of grid systems in place, which usually covers a single metro area with weak links to other systems, be consolidated into larger regional operating areas. “Local grids need to be better integrated with each other if we want to see more reliability and transport capacity,” said Utility Department Director Jim Hunter.

Wind is one of the fastest growing sources of energy, making up 42 percent of all new energy capacity last year. The report advocates incorporating new operating practices, such as more accurate forecasting of energy availability and introducing advanced technologies—like smart-grid—to open up even more opportunities for wind power.

“Using today’s technology to reliably integrate clean, renewable energy resources into the utility system will benefit today’s consumers as well as future generations,” said American Wind Energy Association Chief Executive Denise Bode.