WIRES Applauds Major Interregional Transmission Study

July 27, 2018
Major expansion of the grid will produce consumer benefits

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and several collaborators yesterday issued a much–anticipated analysis of the economic and operational benefits of greater integration of the interstate electric transmission grid across the current "seam" between the Eastern and Western North American power grids.  The results of the NREL Seam Study, released at TransGrid-X 2030 Symposium at Iowa State University, indicate that major expansion of the grid will produce consumer benefits including lower-cost, more reliable, and cleaner electricity that more than triple the probable costs.

The report concluded that each of the transmission expansion scenarios offered benefit-to-cost ratios of $2.48, $3.30, and $2.52 for each $1.00 invested, respectively.  These are conservative estimates based only on the first 15 years of operating the new transmission lines; if fully built, the bi-directional high-voltage overlay lines as presented by the NREL Seam Study would represent a trillion-dollar economic event. 

WIRES Counsel & Executive Director and former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jim Hoecker keynoted the Symposium.  Hoecker stated, "This work lends enormous credibility to the idea of 'big transmission' even at a time when new technologies and security concerns have policy makers looking to efficient distributed energy solutions as well."  Noting in his prepared remarks that such ambitious expansion of our nation's transmission infrastructure faces substantial financial, regulatory, and legal barriers to its realization, Hoecker added, "This study should persuade both pro-market and environmentally motivated policy makers to work to overcome those barriers in light of the tremendous benefits for consumers, the North American economy, and national security that major grid investment will produce over the coming decades.  Regardless of how interregional projects are configured ultimately, NREL has conceptualized a practical approach to supporting a more heavily electrified economy."

Read more about the TransGrid-X 2030 Symposium.

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