The macro grid will keep the lights on

Americans are increasingly worried about the state of our electrical systems, and with good reason. Cold spells in Texas and the Great Plains states, and heat waves in California have strained our power grid, leaving millions exposed to the elements and hundreds tragically dead. Unfortunately, extreme weather events are increased frequency and severity, and are the main contributor to the recent increase in the duration of power outages in the United States. Passing the transportation and clean energy provisions in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) would spur new private sector investment that could help reduce these outages.

Our network must be reliable – it must work when we flip the switch. But the fact is that our system is outdated, balkanized and in need of a serious overhaul after decades of underinvestment.

As the backbone of the national power grid, a more robust high-voltage transmission network – a “macrogrid” – is needed to ensure that homes, schools, hospitals and emergency services in our communities have low-cost power available at all times. . Strategic investments in the country’s high-voltage transmission network would add new capacity and increase flexibility, enabling the system to withstand extreme weather events and other threats.

To help put this into perspective, a recent report found that every additional gigawatt of transmission capacity connecting the Texas power grid to neighboring southeastern states could have saved nearly $1 billion and kept around 200,000 Texas homes warm during the winter storm of Uri last February. The report found that additional transmission links between network regions can generate significant savings for consumers and reduce outages during extreme weather events. Making the network bigger than the weather offers massive reliability, economic and environmental benefits.

Fortunately, Congress has begun to recognize the importance of modernizing our transmission infrastructure to ensure a secure and prosperous future. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters ‘dishonor’ MLK legacy on suffrage Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE in November of last year, contains several provisions to help expand and modernize the nation’s power grid, including language clarifying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s supporting siting authority and a new ministry program of Energy to support the construction of transmission lines and other facilities. The legislation reflects growing support for expanding transmission on both sides of the aisle.

But these programs are only a small down payment on what is needed. Many provisions of the BBBA would help strengthen the construction of the transmission. Perhaps most important is the inclusion of a new investment tax credit for regionally important transport, a tool that could stimulate needed investment in large-scale lines while maintaining transport fares. affordable electricity for customers. Other critical elements include grants and loans to build new lines and upgrade interconnections between different interconnections; funding network resiliency upgrades; providing new assistance to state, local and tribal governments for permits and settlement; and DOE funding to perform transmission planning, modeling and analysis.

As we begin the new year, we look forward to working with the Biden administration and Congress to pass this important legislation to keep the lights on and help achieve a 21st Macro grid of the century.

Gregory Wetstone is President and CEO of American Renewable Energy Council, a national non-profit organization that combines finance, policy and technology to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy. Rob Gramlich is the Executive Director of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, a broad-based, not-for-profit public interest advocacy coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate and modernize the North American high-voltage grid.

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