Electric Transmission Infrastructure

Part 1: Introduction and Welcoming Remarks

Moderator. Jim Hoecker, Counsel to WIRES, Husch Blackwell LLP & Hoecker Energy Law & Policy; Former Chairman of FERC

More information in the EESI website.

This year’s second WIRES University explored an oft-neglected but fundamental aspect of North American INFRASTRUCTURE—the high voltage electric transmission grid. This whole-day session explained the grid’s importance as an enabler of markets and new technology as the economy becomes more thoroughly electrified. Our grid must also adapt to a distributed energy future which calls for a smarter and more flexible network.

This session delved into the details of why modernizing our high-voltage grid infrastructure is more critical than ever, given the age of the nation’s transmission facilities, the fundamental changes occurring in electric generation, and the demands on the system. Expansion and upgrade of the grid will make it more resilient and deliver increased economic, environmental, and consumer benefits in the range of $50 billion annually.

The largest machine in the world—the U.S. electric grid—is struggling to meet the needs of our modern, energy-intensive economy, with demand expected to rise by more than 30 percent over the next two decades. Even after substantial investment in this privately-owned asset over the last decade, the American Society of Civil Engineers still rates the transmission grid a mere D+, just like many other U.S. infrastructure assets.

Speakers, including leaders from Congress, regulatory agencies, industry, and think tanks, examined what challenges need to be overcome to upgrade our transmission system. Policymakers and regulators play a critical role in our nation’s energy infrastructure, and there is much room for improved coordination and planning.

Panels addressed grid modernization, transmission’s role as a strategic asset and an enabler, regulatory and financial challenges, and the role that the wired network plays in the distributed energy environment, clean energy, and in tech innovation environments.

This event was sponsored by WIRES in conjunction with the House Grid Innovation Caucus, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the GridWise Alliance, and EESI.