Where’s the Transmission?

04 August 2022
By Dr. Jeff D. Makholm

In an article for Wiley’s September 2022 issue of Climate and Energy, Managing Director Dr. Jeff D. Makholm explores the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) recent Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPRs) on national electricity transmission and related matters.

Two of the NOPRs noticeably lack provisions that allow for new pathways for the interstate transmission of renewable energy to distant load centers in states without wind or solar renewable generation resources. Neither NOPR sees the “new geography” of renewable generation, where not all states are equally endowed. Instead, both NOPRs still see only congestion and reliability as driving the action of the FERC’s regional transmission organizations (RTOs)—important functions to be sure, but neither of which addresses the pressing question: Where is the new transmission that renewable generation needs to grow its share of US generation overall?

Dr. Makholm argues that state regulators are the answer to that pressing question. It is unreasonable for regulators in wind-endowed states to continue to defer to their RTOs on new transmission facilities their jurisdictional ratepayers will fund. There should be a new interpretation of the statutes that animate the work of the state regulators in wind-endowed states. Ultimately, states (not the FERC) have authority over the public service responsibilities of their local electric utilities and the land required for transmission siting. Given the FERC’s failure, evident in its recent NOPRs, to pursue any useful path toward speeding the entry of the transmission resources to facilitate the more rapid entry of renewable generation, states must collectively solve the problem themselves.

Makholm, Jeff D. (September, 2022). “Where’s the Transmission?” 39/2, ©2022 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., a Wiley Company