Energy Department singles out areas of power grid
Aug 7, 2006 - H. Josef Hebert - The Associated
WASHINGTON --Southern California and the urban centers
from Northern Virginia to New York face the most critical
power grid problems, but such remote areas as Montana
and the Dakotas may need new transmission lines in
the near future, an Energy Department report warns.
The grid congestion report to be released Tuesday
is a first step to the government proposing electricity
transmission corridors later this year to try to ease
bottlenecks and avoid blackouts.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the department
will now begin the process of proposing new transmission
corridors that are of special importance to the national
"If we are to ensure electricity reliability, it
is important that we do what we can to facilitate
investment in new generation and transmission capacity,"
Bodman said in a statement. A copy of the report was
provided to The Associated Press late Monday.
The report identifies four other areas where emerging
grid congestion problems are of serious concern and
new power lines will be needed: New England, the Phoenix-Tucson
area in Arizona; the Seattle-Portland area in the
Pacific Northwest; and the San Francisco Bay area.
These areas are expected to need new electricity transmission
corridors, said the report.
Congress ordered the congestion analysis last year
when it also for the first time gave the federal government
greater say on where high-priority transmission lines
are needed. If states and regional groups fail to
build the lines, the federal government could order
"This study identifies the most critical areas of
congestion," said Kevin Kolevar, director of the Energy
Department's office dealing with electricity reliability
Kolevar said that while there are congestion problems
of varying degree across the country the Northeast
metropolitan areas and southern California "face unparalleled
problems" meeting electricity demand -- as shown in
recent weeks when temperatures soared.
While the grid did not fail during the recent hot
spells in both California and the Northeast, rolling
blackouts were avoided only by utilities and grid
managers cutting off some customers and by utilities
getting people to conserve temporarily, he said.
The report also singles out areas that have enough
power lines now but will see grid congestion as power
generating plants or wind farms are built either to
meet local demand or ship electricity elsewhere.
These areas are Montana and Wyoming, where there
is likely to be an expansion of coal-burning power
plants and windmills; South Dakota, North Dakota and
Minnesota, an area favorable to wind farms; the Kansas-Oklahoma
area, also projected for growth in wind farms; Illinois,
Indiana and the upper Appalachia area, where more
coal-burning power plans are on the horizon; and the
Southeast, where new nuclear power plants will need
more transmission lines.
The report on congestion will be subject to a 60-day
public comment period after which the Energy Department
plans to propose where it would like to see new transmission
Private industry could use the designations to help
get permits from state regulators or work in conjunction
with regional groups to get new lines built. But utilities
have complained for years of a reluctance by states
to approve new lines, often because of local opposition.
Under the law passed last year, the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission may intervene and approve a
grid project if it is deemed the new line is needed
to satisfy national power needs. The designation of
congested areas is a first step in that process.
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