PEC President Chris Miller was one of twelve experts from across the country summoned to testify before a House of Representatives subcommittee at a June 12 hearing entitled “The Future of the Grid: Proposals for Reforming National Transmission Policy.”
Backers of a “new national grid” are urging the federal government to push through thousands of miles of new major transmission lines, which some claim are needed to link population centers to wind and solar generation in the interior of the country.
Mr. Miller cautioned against a transmission-dominated approach to energy planning, making the following points:
- Renewable generation need not be located far from the demand.
- Off-shore wind, distributed solar, geothermal and other forms of renewable generation could be located near the load, reducing the need for long-distance transmission.
- Transmission lines promoted as “green” could carry coal power.
Proponents of a new national grid claim that we need it to link to renewable energy resources in the interior of the country. But these regions are also home to grandfathered coal plants with surplus capacity — positioning supposedly “green” transmission lines to carry dirty coal power. In fact, the new lines might be required to carry coal power, because of policies mandating that the cheapest power be sent to markets first.
We can meet needs by decreasing demand rather than increasing supply. Demand for electricity has been falling rather than increasing, due in part to the economic downturn. Planned improvements in energy efficiency could further reduce that demand.
Mr. Miller told Congress: “[T]ransmission is just one part of an energy equation that includes everything on the supply side and everything on the demand side… Before we set federal policy that permits a $100-200 billion grid build out, we should make every effort to better utilize existing transmission infrastructure, reduce the need for new supply and encourage clean distributed generation.”