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US Power Grid Needs Expansion To Tap Renewables -Indus Grps

Feb 18, 2009 - Dow Jones - Newswires

SAN FRANCISCO -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. electric grid should be expanded to link areas of the country rich in renewable resources like wind, solar and geothermal power, to populated areas, according to a report released by the nation's top wind and solar industry groups on Wednesday.

Building more transmission to accommodate vast new renewable power generation will help the U.S. cut its greenhouse gas emissions while also bringing cost savings to consumers, according to the report, which was released by American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association. A better transmission system would also boost competition in the wholesale power markets because it would open up the system to a variety of suppliers, the report said.
"Today's transmission structure is woefully inadequate," said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and chief executive. "We're using 19th and 20th century technology to tackle 21st century challenges. We face blackouts in many parts of the country that will impact our economy."

Wind farms have been proposed that would generate nearly 300,000 megawatts of electricity, about 20% of U.S. power demand, and 13,000 megawatts of solar power is under development in California, but new transmission infrastructure is needed to ship that power to the grid, AWEA and SEIA said. A patchwork of federal and state regulations have made permitting new transmission facilities a lengthy and costly enterprise, they said, suggesting that transmission permitting should be streamlined, with authority held by the federal government.

"We're facing jurisdictional issues across the states that frankly makes it difficult when one state can veto a project," Resch said. "It adds time and cost to building new transmission lines."

The groups added that President Barack Obama's pledge to double U.S. renewable power generation in three years is possible only with a build out of the transmission system.

The groups cited recent studies by regional transmission grid operators in eastern U.S. states and in Texas that show that investments in new transmission would be paid back through increased revenues and cost savings. However, current incentives to build for transmission are insufficient, which has led to a lack of investment, the groups said. Federal regulators need to boost the fees that developers can collect from transmission shippers to attract investment, they said.

The groups also suggested that regional transmission grids should coordinate better, to create efficiencies and share resources.

-By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6468; cassandra.sweet@dowjones.com

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