ITC and AEP jockey for the lead in building the grid of tomorrow.
Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
The Obama stimulus package may have grabbed headlines with its promise of nearly $1 trillion in new spending for the overall economy. But that’s just chump change, in a manner of speaking, compared to what the U.S. electric industry plans to spend on new electric transmission lines in the next several years.
Enacted on February 17, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (see, H.R. 1., Title IV, secs. 401 & 402) grants $3.25 billion each in additional borrowing authority to the Bonneville Power Administration and the Western Area Power Administration, for new, upgraded, or replacement transmission facilities that BPA or WAPA might choose to finance and construct.
But compare that paltry $6 billion-plus with the news from the week prior.
On February 9, even as Barack Obama headed out from the White House to stump for his stimulus, a group of the nation’s major grid system operators released a study estimating the nation’s electric industry sector needs to spend some $80 billion—more than 10 times the size of that portion of the stimulus package directed specifically at transmission construction—in order to achieve a 20 percent retail penetration for renewable wind energy in just the Eastern Interconnection.