Senate Transmission Bill May Help Renewables

Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced a bill aimed at modernizing the U.S. electricity grid. The proposal calls for reforms to the primary roadblocks the nation faces in restructuring the energy grid, including how it plans, pays for and sites needed transmission projects.

Specifically, the bill enables the development of an interconnection-wide transmission plan, calls for federal backstop to existing state siting authority and delegates cost-allocation authority to FERC through a rulemaking process.

The transmission company ITC has praised the bill as a necessary piece of developing the “smart” grid and allowing more renewables to be put online. As larger renewable energy projects are developed further away from load centers, more transmission lines will need to be built.

“This is the first step in the process, but it is a significant one,” said Nina Plaushin, Director of Federal and Legislative Affairs at ITC. “By providing proposed reforms to the three key regulatory obstacles to transmission expansion — planning, siting and cost allocation — the Committee has set a solid framework for deliberation on these critical issues and moved the debate forward considerably.”
 
 The broad initiatives include: using existing regional planning processes, but requiring that an interconnection-wide plan be developed; allowing states to continue to determine where transmission lines are routed, but having a mechanism in place should states fail to site needed facilities; and allowing for a process to consider broad allocation of transmission costs.

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