WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 27, 2021) – A bipartisan group of nine former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairs joined with transmission and renewable industry leaders earlier today to discuss and comment on a proposal to significantly expand the nation’s transmission capacity to properly support a reliable, affordable, and clean power system. The report, “Planning for the Future: FERC’s Opportunity to Spur More Cost-Effective Transmission Infrastructure,” produced by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG), recommends FERC undertake a comprehensive transmission planning rulemaking.
“Among the most important federal actions of any sort that could be taken to decarbonize the power system and promote rural economic development is FERC transmission planning reform. FERC can ensure that regional transmission planning factors in known changes in generation that are taking place around the country. FERC has ample authority to do that,” said Rob Gramlich, Executive Director of ACEG and report lead author. “FERC took incremental steps to advance regional transmission planning with major orders in 1996, 1999, 2007, and 2011. But a large gap remains between where we are and where we need to be. Ten years after the last major initiative, it is time to finish the job.”
The report describes the long and growing list of studies showing that grid capacity must expand two- or three-fold in coming years to efficiently and reliably integrate the evolving resource mix along with other evidence requiring FERC action, and explains FERC’s legal authority and responsibility to do so. The report proposes a comprehensive rulemaking to reform planning, cost allocation, oversight and governance of transmission, with the following specific recommendations to the Commission intended to stimulate discussion at the Commission and with stakeholders:
- Establish guidelines to ensure proactive planning for future needs;
- Require planners to employ the best available data and forecasting methodologies;
- Require planning authorities to consider the diverse benefits of transmission holistically;
- Require planners to evaluate all available solutions, including new physical infrastructure options and grid-enhancing technologies;
- Direct planners to select a portfolio of solutions that is likely to maximize aggregate net benefits.
The report also explores the challenge of cost allocation in regional and interregional planning. The authors recommend that FERC allow planners flexibility in designing cost allocation, but that any chosen methodology direct cost in proportion to the many benefits of expanded transmission. Transmission projects enabled by such a rule will offer different degrees of benefit across jurisdictions, and those which reap the greatest benefits in terms of cost savings, economic growth, legal compliance, and many other factors should naturally shoulder more of the upfront investment.
“We know how to do long-term, multi-benefit planning that brings the benefits of massive economies of scale to consumers,” said report co-author Jay Caspary, VP at Grid Strategies, LLC and former SPP transmission planner. “MISO, SPP, and others have done it before. It is time to put in place best practices and remove process and governance barriers holding us back.”
To read the new report, Planning for the Future: FERC’s Opportunity to Spur More Cost-Effective Transmission Infrastructure, click here.
This report was commissioned by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid with support from the Macro Grid Initiative, a project of the American Council on Renewable Energy.
Two former FERC Chairs were unable to attend the report webinar. Their comments are provided below:
Cheryl LaFleur, Former FERC Commissioner 2010-2019 and Chair 2014-2017
“Fighting climate change will require both substantial decarbonization of the electric sector and greater use of electricity for transportation and other sectors. Both these goals demand substantial buildout of the nation’s high-voltage transmission grid, especially to connect location-constrained renewable generation to population centers.
It is very hard to plan, site, and build transmission. Even people who strongly support fighting climate change don’t always translate that support to a willingness to have lines built near them. We must communicate the tie between reducing climate damage and building transmission, and the urgency of the need.
While FERC policy is only part of the challenge, now, ten years after the enactment of Order 1000, is a good time for FERC to take a fresh look at how it can encourage construction of needed transmission.”
William Massey, Senior Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP, and Former FERC Commissioner 1993-2003, Chair 2001
“Upgrades to our aging transmission network and new transmission to connect remote clean energy resources, relieve congestion and enhance reliability are urgently needed. These infrastructure investments must be thoughtfully planned and the costs fairly allocated to all who benefit. This excellent report shines a spotlight on the need for FERC to promote better and more comprehensive regional and interregional transmission planning, and underscores the sense of urgency to upgrade and build out the transmission grid in a rational and cost effective manner.”
Additional quotes from notable figures:
Nina Plaushin, President of ACEG and Vice President of Regulatory and Federal Affairs, ITC Holdings Corp
“Today the public and private sectors are more aligned than ever on the need to accelerate the transition of the U.S. electric system to cleaner sources of power. To support this transformation, we need to build electric grid infrastructure that can reliably integrate clean energy in a way that makes sense for customers and the economy. This will require smart public policy and collaboration among diverse stakeholders – and new approaches to how we plan, pay for, and build the high-voltage electric grid.
This report from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid represents a true milestone on the path toward a cleaner energy future. It offers a broad menu of policy options designed to promote proactive and collaborative grid planning. It also recognizes that certain aspects of FERC Order 1000 may be inhibiting necessary regional planning and collaboration, and therefore should be revisited as part of any future reform.
We hope these recommendations will kick-start a conversation among policymakers and stakeholders – a dialogue that needs to happen as soon as possible. ACEG looks forward to continued engagement with diverse stakeholders to achieve our shared vision of a cleaner energy future.”
Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
“Tackling transmission planning reform is one of the most impactful things the federal government can do to accelerate the deployment of the renewable power necessary to address our climate challenge. Ten years after being finalized, not one interregional transmission line has been built using the process established under Order 1000. With more interregional transmission, we can connect centers of high renewable resources with centers of high electric demand, enhancing grid resiliency and dramatically reducing carbon emissions.
“Today’s report is not just an excellent analysis of the shortcomings in current transmission planning, but also a powerful and achievable blueprint for how FERC can move forward. I encourage the Commission to carefully consider this document and its recommendations.”
Daniel Scripps, Chair, Michigan Public Service Commission
“With growing interest in transmission across the country, FERC has a real opportunity to strengthen the transmission planning process. Given the scale of needed investment, it’s also critically important to ensure this new transmission build out is done as cost-effectively as possible. This new paper from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid is certain to spark a much-needed discussion on the opportunity and need for FERC to reform its rules around transmission planning and cost allocation, and offers a blueprint for FERC’s role in building the grid of the future.”
About Americans for a Clean Energy Grid:
Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) is the only non-profit broad-based public interest advocacy coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate, and modernize the North American high-voltage grid. ACEG brings together the diverse support for an expanded and modernized grid from business, labor, consumer and environmental groups, and other transmission supporters to support policy which recognizes the benefits of a robust transmission grid. For more information, please visit cleanenergygrid.org
About Macro Grid Initiative:
The Macro Grid Initiative is a joint effort of the American Council on Renewable Energy and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid to promote investment in a 21st century transmission infrastructure that enhances reliability, improves efficiency and delivers more low-cost clean energy. The Initiative works closely with the American Clean Power Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Advanced Power Alliance and the Clean Grid Alliance to advance our shared goals. To learn more, visit https://acore.org/macro-grid-initiative/. Follow the Macro Grid Initiative on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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