Unforeseen consequences of dedicated renewable energy transmission.
Roger H. Bezdek is president of Management Information Services Inc., and Robert M. Wendling is a vice president with the firm.
Growth in renewable electricity (RE) generation will require major expansion of electricity transmission grids, and in the U.S. this could require building an additional 20,000 miles of transmission over the next decade—double what’s currently planned. To facilitate this, government policymakers are planning to build what are sometimes called “green” transmission lines that are restricted to carrying electricity generated by renewable sources, primarily wind and solar.
However, state and local jurisdictions are resisting siting of transmission unless it serves local constituents and existing power plants. If such transmission is built and local access is allowed, then the major beneficiaries of the added transmission might be existing power generation facilities, especially coal plants. Many of these facilities have very low electricity generating costs and their capacity factors are transmission-constrained. Their access to added transmission lines could enable them to sell electric power at rates against which RE can’t compete.