America is connected through our energy grid. The national transmission system is a highly integrated network spanning thousands of miles. When any component is changed, for example a new power plant comes online or a section suffers damage in a storm, the impacts are felt across the grid. That means adding new wind energy in the Great Plains or solar energy in the Southwest benefits everyone everywhere in between. Other energy sources like natural gas and nuclear power are part of this diverse mix. Regulators must assign cost responsibility in a manner that takes into consideration the fluid and interconnected nature of interstate transmission.
Today transmission planning is still done state by state, even power plant by power plant. This antiquated process only leads to inefficiency and higher costs for consumers, and more importantly, today’s grid is not designed to efficiently connect renewable energy resources to the towns and cities that need that power. The existing governance structure and planning processes are not effective, resulting in little to no true regional transmission being planned or built. We need a truly inclusive planning process that brings all stakeholders to the table and is governed by an independent entity so that we can develop a vision for a regional transmission infrastructure.
Consumers benefit when all stakeholders – energy providers, federal agencies and state and local officials – are involved in a collaborative building process. The regulatory process should be designed to ensure that the state can weigh in on local issues that they are best equipped to navigate; including zoning, land use and other local concerns. At the same time, federal regulators should be empowered to step in and assume responsibility to route a project if a state fails to fulfill its role. A national energy policy can help ensure that strategically planned regional transmission helps us reach our national energy goals.