Renewable Electricity Generation/Transmission
(Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources)
June 17th, 2008
The topic of today’s hearing is renewable electricity generation and transmission.
The Federal government has been trying to encourage the development of renewable electricity since at least the late 1970s with the passage of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. We also have extended tax credits to renewables, and funded research and development. States have passed aggressive renewable portfolio requirements, or have, in some other manner, set goals and targets. In spite of all of this, renewable generation is still only about 3 percent of our national electricity supply.
“Recent studies and reports have indicated that we can do better than this. The Department of Energy recently released a report that indicating that 20 percent of our electricity could come from wind alone. The Western Governors Association has adopted a goal of 30,000 MW of clean energy resources by 2015. Project 25X’25 has accepted as a target that 25 percent of all energy should come from renewables by 2025.
“All of these studies and reports agree that we should extend the renewable tax credits. Several of them support a national renewable electricity standard. All of them also agree, however, that these actions are not enough -- and that one of the most important barriers to accomplishing these goals is the inadequacy of the existing transmission system.
“To get transmission built to carry renewable electricity, it’s important to make sure that the transmission system in general is working well. We need to be sure that FERC’s rules for planning, siting, pricing, interconnection and openness of access are adequate.
“Beyond that, though, renewables do present unique problems. Most wind, solar and geothermal resources are located far from the areas where the electricity is needed. The upper Plains States are rich with potential for wind generation, but these states are sparsely populated and far from large metropolitan or industrial centers. The same is true of the solar potential in the Southwest and the geothermal resources in the mountain West.
“Development of transmission lines to carry such resources to load centers has to be done across many states and through many jurisdictions and siting the lines is a serious problem. Often states that are not benefitting from either the jobs that come to the states where the generation is located, or from the electricity that is carried to customers in other states. This makes it much more difficult for them to face the opposition that often accompanies such projects.
“Cost allocation is also a real difficulty. Customers in the states where the plants are built and where the transmission is essentially just passing through do not want to shoulder the primary burden of paying for the lines that are supplying somebody else.
“In this hearing we’re going to look at a number of efforts to address these vexing problems in efforts to get transmission lines built to renewable resources. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.”