Interstate Transmission Challenges for Renewable Energy: A Federalism Mismatch

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION ............... 1802

I. RENEWABLE ENERGY AND THE ELECTRIC TRANSMISSION GRId ............... 1805

A. The Electric Power Industry and the Transmission Grid ............... 1805

B. Renewable Energy Policy ............... 1809

C. Challenges of Wind Power ............... 1811

II. TRANSMISSION LAW AND POLICY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: BUILDING THE GRID AND ADDING RENEWABLE ENERGY ............... 1812

A. Federal Renewable Energy and Transmission Policy ............... 1813

1. Federal Statutes Governing Transmission Line Siting ............... 1814

2. FERC Orders Governing Transmission Line Siting ............... 1821

3. Federal Projects and Federal Lands ............... 1825

B. State Renewable Energy and Transmission Policy in the Context of Federalism Values ............... 1827

1. The Midwest: Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa ............... 1832

2. The West: California and Oregon ............... 1836

3. Texas............... 1843

C. Regional Transmission Policy and Planning ............... 1847

1. Midwest Independent System Operator.... 1849

2. Western Electricity Coordinating Council and Western Area Power Administration.. 1855

D. Summary ............... 1857

III. NEW DIRECTIONS FOR TRANSMISSION POLICY ............... 1857

A. Options for Reallocating Siting Authority ............... 1858

1. Federal Preemption of State Siting Authority ............... 1859

2. Process Preemption as a Middle Ground... 1865

3. Regional Siting Agencies ............... 1867

B. Co st -Allocation Concerns ............... 1869

CONCLUSION ............... 1873

INTRODUCTION

The list of top three [challenges] for wind industry I would say: transmission, transmission and transmission.

- Texas Energy Stakeholder1

It is impossible to talk about developing renewable energy resources in the United States without also talking about developing electric transmission infrastructure. More specifically, the transmission-planning strategies that may have worked in the past are no longer effective to integrate new sources of renewable energy into the transmission grid. Transmission Unes were historically built to link large stationary power plants to nearby electricity demand centers like cities. For renewable energy, however, state mandates and policies are driving investment in wind - and to a lesser extent solar - energy, creating a need for new transmission lines to link these dispersed resources with electric load centers. Against this backdrop, there is now a complex mix of federal, state, and regional laws, policies, and politics governing both renewable energy goals and transmission planning and siting. These developments have rendered the traditional approach to transmission planning and siting ineffective - and, in some cases, obsolete.

Although members of Congress have introduced bills to create federal renewable energy standards and to create more federal authority over transmission planning to support the growth of renewable energy, most of the action remains at the state level. While there has been significant scholarship on renewable energy siting and development in the United States, there has been less emphasis to date on the transmission challenges associated with the growth of renewable energy. This focus is critical, however, because the success of wind and solar development depends on whether it can get to market cost-effectively, and much of that depends on transmission.

In this Article, we consider federal, state, and regional policies governing transmission planning and siting and highlight the challenges and opportunities for further growth. We focus on wind rather than solar or geothermal resources because wind-based electric power generation has grown significantly in recent years. There are currently over 48,000 megawatts ("MW) of installed wind power, and that scale is beginning to have a demonstrable effect on transmission planning and decisions. …