Industry urges House committee to facilitate new transmission critical to Biden climate goals
- How the United States plans, authorizes and pays for new investments in electric transportation will be critical to meeting decarbonization goals and increasing the use of renewable energy, industry panelists told the Special House Committee on the Climate Crisis Thursday.
- Transportation projects can take more than a decade and along the way many are abandoned due to time and cost, Emily Fisher, general counsel for the Energy Edison Electric Institute, told lawmakers on the committee. Current regional planning processes “hinder, do not help, stakeholders to identify necessary projects and carry them out,” she said.
- Committee chair Representative Kathy Castor, D-Fla., Said there appears to be “common ground” among lawmakers to improve the transmission development process. Republicans, however, question the scope of President Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan and its goal of making the economy carbon neutral by 2050.
House Democrats are considering the CLEAN Future Act and the LIFT America Act as a way to implement Biden’s infrastructure and employment plan, Castor said.
“It’s clear that we have a consensus here. Investments in transmission would benefit consumers across the country,” Castor said. “This is why network renewal and modernization is the centerpiece of President Biden’s US employment plan.”
The CLEAN Future Act would require retail electricity providers to generate 100% of their electricity from zero-emission resources by 2035 and 80% by 2030. The legislation would also require federal regulators to update transportation policy of the United States to better integrate renewables and provide tax credits for transmission extensions. The LIFT America Act includes billions for energy efficiency, grid upgrades, and investment in electric vehicles.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has targeted on July 4 for bringing an infrastructure bill to the House.
“This piece of an infrastructure plan, focused on power transmission, is just going to be critical and I think there’s common ground here,” Castor said. She asked the panelists what they need to move a clean energy agenda forward.
“Anything that can drive and help facilitate the regional planning process,” Linda Apsey, president and CEO of ITC Holdings, the country’s largest independent power transmission company, told the panel.
Utilities are making big investments every day, Apsey said. “But when it comes to planning between multiple transmission owners, in multiple states and regions, we don’t necessarily have the processes to facilitate that,” Apsey said.
Apsey also said regulators must take into account the full range of transmission benefits that a project creates, in order to more effectively plan and pay for these investments. The new transmission provides access and integration of renewables and existing generation, along with resilience, reliability and economic benefits, said Apsey, “and all of these benefits need to be included in our studies.”
According to a recent US report for a clean energy grid, there are more than 20 “plug and play” transmission projects that could add more than 60 GW of renewable energy to the US grid. The study was written in part by Michael Skelly, Founder and CEO of Grid United, a early stage transmission development company.
Skelly told lawmakers on Thursday that the problem of profitable renewable energy production has largely been “solved,” and now the challenge for the power industry is to connect the larger grid.
The inclusion of an investment tax credit for power transmission lines of regional significance, “would be an essential tool in the development of US grid infrastructure,” Skelly said. Biden’s plan includes a 30% tax credit being considered in the House and Senate.
Skelly also warned that the licensing issues must be resolved or the ITC would be ineffective.
“Although the tax credit is beneficial in unlocking these ready-made projects, the timeline for a new inter-regional transmission can take a decade,” he said.
Representative Garret Graves, R-La., Agreed on the need to expedite permitting and environmental review of transportation projects.
“If we are to achieve the network transformation that is necessary, we need to make fundamental changes to our licensing process, to the way we develop and deliver network modernization projects,” said Graves. He added, however, that he and other Republicans continued to be concerned about the scope of Biden’s proposal.
The United States’ high-voltage transmission system will need to triple its capacity by 2050, he said, citing a Princeton study on electrification. Shifting energy use from transportation and buildings to electricity is a major aspect of Biden’s plan to eliminate carbon emissions.
“In terms of updating our grid, I think this is an area where we share the same goals,” Graves told Castor. “My big concern with what this administration is trying to do is that putting an extraordinary amount of taxpayer dollars into a system that cannot deliver only works worse.”
The United States needs to invest $ 360 billion in the transportation system until 2030 and $ 2.4 trillion by 2050, Fisher told lawmakers.
“To remove a critical barrier to increased investment, it may be necessary to broaden the scope of the benefits and beneficiaries considered, especially as the transport system, the mix of generating resources and policy objectives change and are expected to change over time, ”said Fisher. .