Senate to Focus on Renewable Energy and Transmission
For decades both the Federal government and industry has preferred the older, dirtier and more expensive fossil fuels over renewable energy. But that may be changing as the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee begins hearings focusing exclusively on renewable energy and transmission.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D., Nevada, told the committee members, during a June 2008 meeting, that Nevada has set a goal of 20% alternative energy use by the year 2015 and encouraged them to consider a national goal of 20% renewable by 2020. If the nation had such a goal, according to Senator Reid, it would create at least 185,000 new jobs and save consumers $10.5 billion in lower electricity and natural gas bills.”
A recent U.S. Department of Energy study found that wind alone could provide 20% of U.S. electricity – the same amount currently provided by nuclear power – by 2030. However, wind, like solar would requires an investment in new transmission. In addition the report noted that the transmission investment needed for wind to provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030 would be about $60 billion, or about $3 billion per year. This is a modest amount compared to the $8 billion spent annually in recent years on the current aged transmission infrastructure.
Debating Fossil Fuels Pros And Cons
Don Furman, Senior Vice President of Iberdrola Renewables, and President-elect of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) agreed with the report pointing out that the existing and aging electric transmission system was not designed to tap renewables, but regardless must be upgraded.
In testimony prepared for the Senate committee, T. Boone Pickens noted that, “It is clear that renewable energy sources are an essential national security strategy. We need a national electricity transmission system to carry this electricity, be it wind, solar, biofuels or other alternatives.”
Senator Reid pointed out that the nationwide investment in transmission has declined for over two decades while “electricity sales have nearly doubled, prices have risen, and consumer demand continues to grow.”
It appears that the nation must make a significant investment in the transmission grid but such an investment will be required even if we ignore renewables. The Brattle Group has estimated that the nation will need $1.5 trillion for distribution and transmission between 2010 and 2030.
Unlike war spending, investing in renewables makes economic sense it creates substantial savings to both utilities and consumer said the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) in a recent study on wind energy. From their study they concluded that transmitting wind energy from North and South Dakota to New York City on a new 5,000 mile 765-kV transmission line would result in substantial savings for consumers.
But, that investment must be smart. And that does not mean relying on coal and linking existing and highly inefficient coal plants by Federal energy corridors.
Further any cost and benefit analysis of the transmission of wind and solar vs. continued development in fossil fuels must include the impact on global warming.
Senator Reid has begun addressing the problem by introducing S.2076 he suggests would “tackle several of the obstacles to new investment in renewable electricity transmission.” Weighing up fossil fuels pros and cons debate, it is clear investment is required.
Specifically, the bill directs the President to identify and designate zones where renewable energy resources can generate at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity. It would then provide new financing options for building transmission lines and connecting remote renewable energy zones to the grid.
These lines would carry mostly clean renewable energy thus also addressing global warming. Under this bill developers would pay back the government over 50 years. The bill also clarifies the ability of utilities to recover prudently incurred costs for interstate high-voltage lines. In addition, it allows for intrastate trunkline charging. These charges would decline as more renewable projects are added. In addition, existing power customers would not be liable for the costs of renewable project interconnects.
Resistors to renewable plans suggest that they cannot afford transmission lines that carry only or mainly renewably generated electricity. That, of course, is shortsighted nonsense since the nation must find solutions to both the need for low-cost, renewable, energy and global warming.
Congress and the President are currently spending $341.4 million per day on the Iraqi war. The Department of energy study suggested that it would cost $60 billion to provide 20% of our nations need with wind energy. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the current congress and administration prefers a misguided war over energy efficiency and public health in the United States.
- Reid, Harry, “Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Challenges and Regional Solutions to Developing Transmission for Renewable Electricity Resources,” during Full Committee Hearing: to examine the challenges and regional solutions to developing transmission for renewable electricity resources (SD 366) Tuesday, June 17, 2008
- U.S. Department of Energy with contributions from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Wind Energy Association, Black & Veatch and others from the energy sector, “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply,“
- Furman, Don, “Statement of Donald N. Furman, IBERDROLA Renewables, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate,” during Full Committee Hearing: to examine the challenges and regional solutions to developing transmission for renewable electricity resources (SD 366) Tuesday, June 17, 2008
- Pickens, T. Boone,” Testimony of Mr. T. Boone Pickens before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” during Full Committee Hearing: to examine the challenges and regional solutions to developing transmission for renewable electricity resources (SD 366) Tuesday, June 17, 2008
- Penner-Fox, Peter, ” Brattle Group: $1.5 Trillion Needed to Meet Future Demand for Electricity,” April, 2008
- Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc. (Midwest ISO) “2008 Summer Assessment, Grid Operator Projects Adequate Power to Meed Demand,”
g. GovTrack.us, “S. 2076: Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development, A bill to amend the Federal Power Act to require the President to designate certain geographical areas as national renewable energy zones, and for other purposes,”
- The Nation Priorities organization, “The War in Iraq Costs,”