Transmission, No Transmission

By February 20, 2009Energy

Energy Secretary Steven Chu delivered the keynote address Wednesday to the DOE-NARUC National Electricity Delivery Forum here in Washington, “The preeminent public policy forum on the Nation’s electric power delivery system infrastructure.”

The stimulus bill contained, by most accounts, $11 billion for transmission grid improvements, and Chu is promising to move quickly on funding approval and distribution. From the AP:

On the need to expand and modernize the transmission grid, Chu demonstrated his “hands-on” involvement in such issues as “smart grid” development, and the importance of the grid to making wind-produced electricity a larger share of the nation’s power supply.

The good news is that the United States has vast areas where wind is plentiful, he said, but “the bad news is renewable energy sources are in places that don’t have many people” requiring construction of new transmission lines.

Good. Too bad judges, acting on lawsuits by environmentalists, are disinclined to let that happen. From the Northern Virginia Daily, “Ruling gives power line authority back to states“:

A U.S. appellate court ruling puts power over electric transmission line projects, such as the pending Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, back in states’ hands.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion Wednesday in a case brought by the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council regarding rules set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“The decision directly upholds a state’s right to reject a transmission line project without fear of the federal government stepping in to overrule that State’s determination,” Christopher G. Miller, president of PEC, states in a press release. “In plain language, the utilities do not get a second chance if the state rejects a line based upon the merits.”

In practical political language, that means that it is much easier for environmental and NIMBY groups to block the construction of transmission lines anywhere in the United States. So much for the plentiful wind energy.

The Fourth Circuit’s opinion in the lawsuit brought by the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Public Service Commission of New York and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission against FERC is available here.

And we’ll link to Secretary Chu’s speech if and when it becomes available.

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