Benefits of Transmission
Investing now in a strong and modern transmission grid will save Americans money in the long term, while enabling a more diverse and cleaner electricity mix, reliable electricity supply and deployment of new advanced power sector technologies.
Transmission investment creates jobs and economic development
Average investment of $12 billion to $16 billion a year investment in our transmission system creates 150,000 to 200,000 full time manufacturing and construction jobs. Between 130,000 and 250,000 renewable energy project jobs will be facilitated by the new transmission lines. Untold numbers of jobs depend on reliable 24X7 electric supplies and transmission is a key component of that supply chain.
“As the North American economy becomes more intensely electric and dependent on digital as opposed to electro-mechanical technology, electric power will be one of the main determinants of economic health and development. Energy efficiency has helped flatten demand for electricity on a per capita basis, but large sectors of the economy will become increasingly animated by electric power, making the grid even more important now than ever.”
– NASEO (National Association of State Energy Offices
Improves system reliability
Traditionally, the transmission system has been a localized asset built and maintained to ensure a continuous source of electricity. Outages in the bulk power sector are becoming less common and far fewer than for distribution level systems. Nevertheless, transmission remains vulnerable to storms and cyber attack. New investment in lines, substations, and new digital monitoring and control technology will enhance the resilience and flexibility of the system.
“The Power Grid: Our Achilles Heal”
– Wall St. Journal
“A continued reliance on traditional planning that is primarily focused on reliability needs wil lead us to piecemeal projects instead of developing integrated and flexible transmission solutions that enable the system to meet public policy goals more cost effectively.”
– The Brattle Group (2016)
Access to lower cost generation
The transmission system built in the 1950s and 1960s was not planned with modern renewable energy or natural gas-fired electrical generation in mind. Those resources have become more and more price competitive but will not be able to reach markets without more transmission capacity. Many of the best renewable resources are far distant from major loads.
“A major infrastructure need relates to long-distance electricity transmission lines. As [Texas] governor, Secretary Perry oversaw the nation’s single most successful transmission development program. In just five years, Texas built more than 3,500 miles and $7 billion of transmission lines to move wind energy from rural west Texas to Dallas and Houston – helping Texas become the nation’s wind power leader. . . . Secretary Perry has authority to unstick some of the siting and financing problems bedeviling many other U.S. long distance transmission lines.”
– Dan W. Reicher, Stanford University (2017)
Benefits of improving the grid include reduced cost of power plant construction, reduced emissions, reduced reliance on he most polluting fossil fuels, and improved utilization of transmission corridors. Without transmission to bring remote clean energy resources to market, electric generation will have to be developed close to major concentrations of power customers, with certain air and land use consequences. The critical infrastructure must nevertheless be sited carefully and with due regard for the rights of land owners and protection of sensitive natural resources.
“Depending on the effects of transmission expansion on the overall generation dispatch, some projects can reduce harmful emissions (e.g., SO2, NOx, particulates, mercury, and greenhouse gases) by avoiding the dispatch of high-emission resources. . . . Not every proposed transmission project will necessarily provide environmental benefits. . . . Nevertheless, even if specific transmission prohjects do not reduce the overall emissions, they may affect the costs of emissions allowance which in turn could affect the cost of delivered power to customers.”
– The Brattle Group (2013)
Mitigates unexpected events
Major new investment spent on integrating and hardening the North American grid will reducing the time it takes to recover from major storms like Hurricane Matthew and Super Storm Sandy. Experts anticipate more variable climate conditions and that poses a serious challenge to the operation of the grid. However, new technologies such as storage, microgrids, and digital monitoring and controls help keep consumers and businesses thriving. Investment in electric transmission, after years of investment in other priorities, also helped growth-starved utilities achieve better earnings in recent years.
“Much of our energy infrastructure is susceptible to increasingly severe storms, flooding, drought and wildfires – as we’ve experienced in the Northwest where we’ve had so many transmission lines burn up.”
– Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) (2017)
“Certain transmission upgrades can improve the storm resilience of the existing transmission system. Strong storms that damage transmission lines can drastically affect an entire region . . . Even if new transmission lines intended to increase system resilience are built along similar routes as existing lines . . ., newer technologies and construction standards would allow the new projects to offer greater storm resilience than the existing transmission lines.”
– The Brattle Group (2013)