Congress Should Invest In Grid Connections
The Trump administration has addressed crucial power grids primarily as a back-door means to prop up the failing coal industry, and grid operators roundly have condemned that ruse. But a new analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers a better way to address the power grids to ensure not only security, but reliability, efficiency to reduce costs and pollution reduction. Gov. Tom Wolf has joined a bipartisan group of governors from across the country to create a seamless national power grid. That is a huge undertaking. Now, little power and less cooperation flow among three major grids — the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. There are, in effect, hard borders or “seams” between the various grids. That means that abundant solar-generated power in the Southwest and wind-generated power in the Midwest and Plains can’t be used in major metropolitan areas of the East. The report points out that the three major grids interconnect in only seven locations, and that the capacity to transfer power is tiny compared to the potential amount of power available. And, it notes, that much of the equipment in the key locations is old and must be replaced soon, offering an opportunity to begin to integrate all three grids. Such a project would be enormous, requiring new transmission lines and upgraded technology and difficult political decisions. But such a project should fall in the sweet spot of Congress’ and the administration’s desire for a major infrastructure program. And with coal declining precipitously even in the current market, the prospect of large-scale transmission from renewable sources, which continue to fall in price, should attract significant investment. Congress should join the governors in making diverse, secure national grid a national priority.