On Marc Gunther’s blog, a guest post by John Harrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues that the “last thing renewable energy needs right now are new transmission lines.” The view is not, he admits, shared by folks in the renewable energy business. The ILSR has a second edition out of a report, Energy Self-Reliant States, which says that three out of five states could generate all of their power from in-state sources. The report allows the in-state transmission improvements may be necessary, but inter-regional lines less so.
I tend to believe that the benefits from transmission and long-distance trade in electric power usually outweigh the costs associated with relying on non-local resources. While I agree that “local self-reliance” in energy may be possible, I don’t think most people are willing to pay the price of such extreme energy independence.
(And, of course, it is a funny kind of local self reliance that involves importing your solar panels from manufacturers in other communities. Energy-independence types may want to start developing their local community silicon chip fabrication skills.)