Peter Behr, at ClimateWire, describes the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to rework its electric transmission study processes, created in the 2005 Energy Policy Act but stalled by adverse court decisions and political missteps. I’m not so sure that the new approaches will be any better received than the old, but I noticed in the article one salutatory effect from the broad regional transmission studies that the DOE has supported: state regulators are getting better access to competing viewpoints, which make them less dependent on the information provided by their incumbent regulated companies.
From the article:
[DOE’s Lauren Azar] said some interactions among state regulators, utilities, grid managers and interest groups were eye-opening.
“One state came into the process saying, literally, ‘We need absolutely no transmission,'” Azar said, declining to name the state.
“During this process, it became quite clear there was pretty significant congestion in that state. That state is now talking with its neighbors about how best to build transmission across state lines and into its state to bring renewable resources into its state. That did not happen before this process.”
Asked why that state’s regulators happened to be misinformed about congestion issue, Azar sounded her often-heard concern about the need for more competition in the power sector.
“One of the problems that I’ve seen in this industry is market power issues. Some folks that have less competitive generators actually don’t want to see more transmission, because what that does is bring a cheaper commodity into their area, and it threatens their use of their less efficient generators. I think that might be one of the reasons they didn’t get the information they needed.
“It was euphoric for me to be with the regulators and see the light bulbs go off when they realized some of the information they hadn’t been getting,” she said. “This process helped to give them that data.”
I think she meant “light bulbs go on.”