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FERC Overhauls Electric Grid to Pave Way for Renewables



In an aerial view, electric power lines are attached to the transmission tower along the power grid in the Everglades, Florida

Electric power lines are attached to the transmission tower along the power grid in the Everglades, Florida on Sept. 28, 2023. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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The United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Monday approved the first overhaul of the country’s electric transmission policy in more than a decade.

The changes will make new interregional lines faster and bring more renewable energy to meet increasing demand.

“Our country is facing an unprecedented surge in demand for affordable electricity while confronting extreme weather threats to the reliability of our grid and trying to stay one step ahead of the massive technological changes we are seeing in our society,” said FERC Chairman Willie Phillips in a press release from FERC. “Our nation needs a new foundation to get badly needed new transmission planned, paid for and built. With this new rule, that starts today.”

The rule is the first time FERC has directly addressed the country’s need for long-term energy transmission planning and will help achieve President Joe Biden’s target of decarbonizing the U.S. economy by 2050, reported Reuters.

It has taken FERC almost two years to develop the rule, with new requirements for how electricity is transmitted across state lines, project approval and financing.

Transmission owners will now need to conduct 20-year assessment plans for their regional transmission needs with a requirement to revisit them every five years. The regulation mandates that opportunities for modifying existing transmission facilities be identified, known as “right-sizing.”

“This rule cannot come fast enough,” Phillips said, as Reuters reported. “There is an urgent need to act to ensure the reliability and the affordability of our grid. We are at a transformational moment for the electric grid with phenomenal load growth.”

To meet the Biden administration’s goal of decarbonizing the power sector by 2035, the U.S. must more than double the country’s regional transmission capacity, as well as expand the interregional transmission capacity by more than five times, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy last year.

“Our country’s aging grid is being tested in ways that we’ve never seen before. Without significant action now, we won’t be able to keep the lights on,” Phillips said, as reported by The New York Times.

The new rule also includes a code of conduct asking project participants to work with Native American Tribes through early outreach, issue an environmental justice report and engage with communities.

“We need to seize this moment,” Phillips said in the press release. “Over the last dozen years, FERC has worked on five after-action reports on lessons learned from extreme weather events that caused outages that cost hundreds of lives and millions of dollars. We must get beyond these after-action reports and start planning to maintain a reliable grid that powers our entire way of life. The grid cannot wait. Our communities cannot wait. Our nation cannot wait.”

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