New Transmission Lines Are the Last Thing Renewable Power Needs, Says John Harrell

Michael Giberson

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.)


5 thoughts on “New Transmission Lines Are the Last Thing Renewable Power Needs, Says John Harrell

  1. The simple question is not whether a state “could” be self-reliant, because any state could. As any economist will tell you, you can have whatever you want (including energy independence), it just depends on what you are willing to give up.

    It seems to me that these anti-trade types want us to have “indepndence” for the sake of it, no matter how much more we have to pay. Whenever I encounter them, I ask about how they derive a value to “independence” that outweighs the higher costs, but I’ve never got a coherent answer – usually it’s a mishmash of granola rhetoric and half-baked selective math and analysis.

  2. Where I live, we have over half the year of cloudy days, and we have class I wind availability (i.e. not much). Right now we get our electricity from coal. I guess that won’t change very much.

  3. Local self-reliance would deny benefits of regional load and resource diversity, and would appear to assume insufficient transmission capacity.

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