WIRES Reports

The Truth About The Need For Electric Transmission Investment: Sixteen Myths Debunked (2017)

The views of key decision makers regarding the need for transmission investment are often governed by widely-believed but outdated or inaccurate myths regarding the key drivers for investment, such as: trends in electric demand and supply; the cost of infrastructure and who should pay for it; benefits of investment; and the interplay between transmission and various new technologies. This White Paper identifies the principal myths surrounding consideration of transmission projects in regulatory, industry, and political circles and then explains why those myths are typically baseless, false, and misleading. The paper uses real-life examples of transmission investment projects to debunk these harmful misconceptions. In order to offer a more accurate portrayal of the need to invest in transmission infrastructure, this White Paper concludes with recommendations for practical and feasible improvements to the process of evaluating transmission projects.

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...relying on outdated myths can handicap the decision-making process, mistakenly reject valuable transmission investment, and result in missed opportunities to benefit consumers.

Well Planned Electric Transmission Saves Customer Costs (2016)

Written independently by economists at The Brattle Group, this white paper addresses how improving the transmission grid will be critical for cost-effectively adapting to a shift in the U.S. generation mix from coal to natural gas and renewable resources. The more proactive approach to transmission planning encouraged in the white paper is recommended regardless of whether the generation shift is driven by evolving energy markets, technological changes or the requirements in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

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Transmission planning for a clean energy future must begin now if policymakers want to avail themselves of lower-cost compliance options and reduce the risks to customers posed by highcost futures and piecemeal transmission solutions that would involve higher costs over the long term.

- Judy W. Chang, Johannes P. Pfeifenberger (The Brattle Group)

Toward More Effective Transmission Planning - Addressing the Costs and Risks of An Insufficiently Flexible Electricity Grid (2015)

This study, commissioned by WIRES, is a continuation of the ongoing efforts to assess transmission planning processes in the United States, to diagnose critical deficiencies, and to recommend improvements. The analysis focuses on the effectiveness of current and proposed planning practices in identifying the most valuable regional and interregional transmission investments.

In an industry where it can take a decade to plan, permit, and build major new transmission infrastructure, further delaying investment by understating transmission-related benefits can easily result in a higher-cost, higher-risk outcome that is exactly the opposite of the goals of “conservative” planning.

- Judy W. Chang, Johannes P. Pfeifenberger (The Brattle Group)

Market Resource Alternatives: An Examination of New Technologies in the Electric Transmission Planning Process (2014)

The report explains what it re-labels Market Resource Alternatives (“MRAs”), analyzes the capabilities of each of technology and examines how these supply-side and demand-side options can benefit the electric system and ultimately consumers. Importantly, LEI’s benefit-by-benefit analysis shows that, when compared to the benefits that additional or upgraded transmission capacity offers in specific circumstances, “MRAs are rarely a complete substitute for transmission.” Instead, MRAs “provide specific benefits and can serve as complements to transmission and vice versa.”

MRAs are increasingly being put forth as possible solutions in lieu of transmission infrastructure. However, based on the characteristics of MRAs today, MRAs are rarely a complete substitute to transmission, and individual MRAs typically provide only a partial suite of the services that transmission provides.

- Julia Frayer, Eva Wang (London Economics International)

WIRES-Brattle Report: Benefits of Transmission (2013)

The purpose of this study is three-fold. First, WIRES has asked The Brattle Group to document the broad range of potential transmission-related benefits and how they can be identified and estimated for specific transmission investments. Second, we document and discuss the experiences of regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and non-RTO regions in analyzing the economic, reliability, public policy, and other benefits that new or upgraded transmission can provide. Third, based on the collective experience documented, we catalogue the range of potential benefits offered by transmission investments and summarize the experience with the estimation of these benefits. Put together, the transmission-related potential benefits, metrics, and estimation practices documented in this report can be applied to evaluate any individual or group of transmission investments.

In the last decade, the focus of transmission planning has gradually expanded beyond addressing reliability concerns to include “economic” (also referred to as “market efficiency”) and public policy drivers for transmission investments.

- Judy W. Chang, Johannes P. Pfeifenberger, and J. Michael Hagerty (The Brattle Group)

WIRES-Brattle Report: "Employment and Economic Benefits of Transmission Infrastructure Investment in the U.S. and Canada" (2011)

A robust transmission grid not only ensures reliable delivery of electricity but provides many other benefits such as reducing power production costs and transmission losses, fostering competition in electricity markets, facilitating renewable energy development, and providing insurance against extreme events such as local power shortages due to weather and other factors. Investment in transmission infrastructure also supports employment and stimulates the economy.

...every $1 billion of U.S. transmission investment supports approximately 13,000 full-time-equivalent (“FTE”) years of employment and $2.4 billion in total economic activity.

- Johannes P. Pfeifenberger, Delphine Hou (The Brattle Group)

Smart Transmission: Modernizing the Nation's High Voltage Transmission System (2011)

This report focuses on transmission-level technologies and the new investments being made to enhance the transmission system with those technologies. It does not examine the application of smart grid technologies at the distribution level, or behind the customer’s electric meter – applications that are more typically associated with the term “smart grid.” Last, this report seeks to place in perspective investment in smart technologies and in the physical transmission capacity that will be more fully utilized as part of the Smart Grid.

Integrating Locationally Constrained Resources Into Transmission Systems: A Survey of U.S. Practices (2008)

This paper reviews effective practices that have been adopted throughout the United States by utilities, regulators, politicians, and markets to encourage the network to integrate locationallyconstrained generation into the existing transmission network. Locationally-constrained generation refers to power production that faces limitations on geographical placement due to i) inputs, ii) technology, or iii) outputs. Most generation faces siting limitations for one or more of these reasons.

A National Perspective on Allocating Cost of New Transmission Investment: Practice and Principles (2007)

This white paper focuses on the principles for determining the benefits of new transmission investments, and for allocating the costs efficiently and equitably among those who benefit from the enhancement.

Transmission Cost Escalation: Summary and Analysis (2007)

Consumers, regulators and advocates for new transmission investment in the United States need to be aware of the cost escalation that is taking place in the industry. Increases in the cost of labor and materials, as well as the costs attributable to financing and delays in construction, are all contributing to the escalation of costs currently facing builders of transmission. This document is intended as part of the dialogue regarding the need for new transmission infrastructure.

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