Today the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Grid Deployment Office released final guidance for the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC) designation process. This process will enable DOE to independently identify narrow areas in the country where transmission development is urgently needed and to work with affected states, tribes, local communities, and industry to accelerate the development of transmission projects in those areas. Public input will be critical in pinpointing areas of the country where consumers are harmed because not enough power lines are getting built.
According to the DOE, onsumers are frequently harmed from a lack of transmission infrastructure, which can directly contribute to higher electricity prices, more frequent power outages from extreme weather, and longer outages as the grid struggles to come back online. While these needs are urgent, building and expanding transmission often requires several years of permitting, siting, and regulatory processes, especially if the line extends through multiple states and regions.
To expedite and streamline this process, the Federal Power Act authorizes the Secretary of Energy to designate any geographic area as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC) if the Secretary finds that consumers are harmed by a lack of transmission in the area and that the development of new transmission would advance important national interests in that area, such as increased reliability and reduced consumer costs.
NIETC designations will be based on:
- Findings from the National Transmission Needs Study, DOE’s triennial state-of-the-grid report.
- Critical public input gained through early and meaningful collaboration with affected states, Tribes, local communities, industry, and stakeholders.
- Information and recommendations relevant to transmission capacity constraints or congestion that harms consumers currently or in the future, and ongoing roadblocks to transmission development in those areas, such as permitting, siting, or regulatory issues.
- Information on whether one or more transmission projects are under development in those areas.
By increasing stakeholder engagement, DOE can leverage best-available information to inform NIETC designation, leading to more efficient and effective designations.
The guidance issued today outlines a four-phase process to assist DOE in independently identifying potential NIETCs. During the four-phase process, DOE plans to:
- Collect information on narrow geographic areas where NIETC designation may be particularly valuable.
- Publish a preliminary list of potential NIETC designations and collect more detailed information and feedback concentrated on the preliminary list.
- Complete any needed environmental and other reviews, conduct robust public engagement, and publish one or more draft NIETC designation reports and environmental documents.
- Conclude by publishing one or more final NIETC designation reports and environmental documents.
NIETC designation unlocks key federal financing and permitting tools to advance transmission deployment. These include public-private partnerships through the Transmission Facilitation Program under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and direct loans through the Transmission Facility Financing Program under the Inflation Reduction Act. On the permitting side, NIETC designation allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue permits for the siting of transmission lines within a NIETC under certain circumstances where state siting authorities do not have authority to site the line, have not acted on an application for over a year, or have denied an application.
NIETC designation does not constitute selection of, or a preference for, a specific transmission project for financial purposes.
The guidance released today opens the first window for public submission of information and recommendations on NIETC designation. This window will remain open until 5 p.m. ET on Feb. 2, 2024. Submissions can be made by emailing [email protected]. The public will also have an opportunity to submit information in response to DOE’s preliminary list of potential NIETC designations, which it expects to release in Spring 2024. DOE anticipates re-opening the NIETC designation process after each publication of the triennial Needs Study or as determined by the Secretary.