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U.S. DOE Launches Initiative From Biden’s Infrastructure Law To Modernize National Grid

Jan. 14, 2022
'Building a Better Grid' initiative will engage stakeholders to upgrade the nation’s aging electric grid while supporting more sustainable energy, cleaner air, and good paying jobs.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the “Building a Better Grid” Initiative to catalyze the nationwide development of new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines, as enabled by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Building a Better Grid will work with community and industry stakeholders to identify national transmission needs and support the buildout of long-distance, high voltage transmission facilities that are critical to reaching President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and a zero emissions economy by 2050.

This program will make the U.S. power grid more resilient to the impacts of climate change, increase access to affordable and reliable clean energy, and create good-paying American jobs across industry sectors – boosting transmission jobs which employs over one million workers across the country. “The foundation of our climate and clean energy goals is a safe, reliable, and resilient electric grid that is planned hand-in-hand with community partners and industry stakeholders,” said secretary of energy, Jennifer M. Granholm.  “DOE’s new Building a Better Grid initiative is a job booster spurred by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and collaboration with communities to upgrade the nation’s grid, connect more Americans to clean electricity and broadband, and reliably move clean energy to where it’s needed most.” 

Independent estimates indicate that we need to expand electricity transmission systems by 60% by 2030, and may need to triple it by 2050. Rebuilding and improving our nation's aging roads and bridges and electric grid is a cornerstone of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. More than 70% of the nation’s grid transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old, creating vulnerability.

Extreme weather events like the Dixie Wildfire, Hurricane Ida, and the 2021 Texas Freeze have made it clear that America’s existing energy infrastructure will not endure the continuing impacts of extreme weather events spurred by climate change. Furthermore, the interconnection queue waiting times for the number of clean energy generation and storage projects slated to be added on to the grid is growing, as use of renewable electricity accelerates faster than ever. And with the clean energy investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, even more clean energy sources will join the queue for grid integration. 

As outlined in a new Notice of Intent issued by the Department today, Building a Better Grid will support the development of nationally significant transmission projects and grid upgrades by: 

  • Engaging and collaborating early with states, tribal nations, and stakeholders to accelerate transmission deployment. 
  • Enhancing transmission planning to identify areas of greatest need such as high-priority national transmission needs and conducting longer-term national-scale transmission planning analysis.
  • Deploying more than US$20 billion in federal financing tools, including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new US$2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Program, US$3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, and more than US$10 billion in grants for states, Tribes, and utilities to enhance grid resilience and prevent power outages, and through existing tools, including the more than US$3 billion Western Area Power Administration Transmission Infrastructure Program, and a number of loan guarantee programs through the Loan Programs Office.
  • Facilitating an efficient transmission permitting process by coordinating with federal agencies to streamline permitting, using public private partnerships, and designating corridors. 
  • Performing transmission-related research and development to continue developing and reducing the costs of technologies that enable the transmission system to be used more efficiently. 

“Clean air, clean water, and clean energy are fundamental to the health and well-being of every American. Today’s launch of the Building a Better Grid Initiative takes important steps to upgrade and expand the electric grid so that more Americans can benefit from affordable and abundant clean energy. I applaud Secretary Granholm for her leadership on this critical strategy to solve the climate crisis, improve public health and create high-quality jobs in America. I am determined to help communities lower costs with the transition to a resilient and clean energy economy and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to ensure that the critical transmission investments in the Build Back Better Act reach President Biden’s desk, so he can sign them into law,” said U.S. representative, Kathy Castor (FL-14), chair, House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. 

“Transmission infrastructure is the backbone of a reliable, resilient, and clean electricity system. Significant transmission investments are needed to achieve our ambitious clean energy goals; however, today these investments face numerous barriers. I applaud Secretary Granholm and DOE’s leadership on the Building a Better Grid initiative. This committed focus on grid modernization will help meet our nation’s 21st century clean energy needs all while protecting Americans from future energy disruptions and lowering costs. I look forward to working with the Department as it continues to implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” said U.S. representative Paul Tonko (NY-20), chair, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee for Environment and Climate Change. 

“Too many Americans, including many Californians, have experienced the harsh consequences of power grid failures in the face of mounting extreme weather events due to climate change. The Department of Energy’s actions today will build a more secure, resilient, clean, and efficient energy system that our nation can rely on. I applaud the DOE’s efforts and will continue my work in Congress to modernize and strengthen our national electric transmission system,” said U.S. representative Scott Peters (CA-52). 

“I proudly supported the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act because it will pave the way to upgrading our energy transmission infrastructure. The Department of Energy’s new Building a Better Grid Initiative, made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure package, will improve the transmission permitting process enabling us to efficiently deploy renewable energy such as offshore wind and solar. This is a critical step to strengthening the resiliency of the power grid,” said U.S. representative Elaine Luria (VA-2). 

DOE recognizes the importance of collaborative engagement with other federal agencies, state and local governments, American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations, industry, unions, local communities, environmental justice organizations, and other stakeholders to create a safe, reliable, and resilient grid. The Department is committed to working with these partners to increase coordination and transparency; employ available tools and resources to assist in transmission project development; and improve transmission siting, permitting, and authorization processes. For more information visit: Building a Better Grid Initiative or email [email protected]  

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