The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a $20 billion initiative called “building a better grid” to catalyse the development of new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines nationally.
The scheme will work with community and industry stakeholders to identify national transmission needs and support the buildout of long-distance, high-voltage transmission facilities to help the US reach Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and a zero emissions economy by 2050, according to the DOE.
Rob Gramlich, president and founder of consultancy Grid Strategies and a former executive with the American Wind Energy Association, which merged with a solar trade group and became the American Clean Power Association, described the scheme as “critical” for wind power and other renewable energy sources.
“The building a better grid initiative is a very carefully structured set of tools that the agency says it will integrate with the intention of deploying significant new transmission,” he added.
“With hundreds of gigawatts of wind farms stuck in interconnection queues around the country due to a lack of transmission capacity, this initiative is very welcome.”
“Building a better grid” will be enabled by the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Joe Biden in November, which included $2.5 billion for a Transmission Facilitation Programme, a $3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Programme, and more than $10 billion in grants for states
“The foundation of our climate and clean energy goals is a safe, reliable, and resilient electric grid that is planned hand-in-hand with community partners and industry stakeholders,” said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm.
The initiative will deploy more than $20 billion in federal financing tools, including through the bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Existing tools will also be used, such as the more-than $3 billion Western Area Power Administration Transmission Infrastructure Programme, and a number of loan guarantee programmes through the Loan Programmes Office.
The initiative will also promote engaging and collaborating early with states, tribal nations, and stakeholders. It will enhance transmission planning to identify areas of greatest need such as high-priority national transmission needs and conduct longer-term national-scale transmission planning analysis, according to the DOE.
Further, it will attempt to ease an efficient transmission permitting process by coordinating with federal agencies to streamline permitting, using public private partnerships, and designating corridors. And it will perform transmission-related research and development to continue developing and reducing the costs of technologies that the DOE says will enable the transmission system to be used more efficiently.