NEMA applauds transmission siting reform

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) welcomed recent developments and discussion surrounding electrical transmission siting and the need to look at new approaches for a robust and secure 21st century transmission grid.

“For the past several years NEMA has championed policies aimed at consolidating and streamlining transmission environmental reviews and addressing a greater federal role in siting multistate transmission lines,” said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. “We are encouraged by recent statements and reports that offer the prospects for new thinking and approaches to transmission siting, and as the industry that supplies the technologies that make electrical transmission possible, we applaud these developments.”

Calling for new construction of electric infrastructure and expansion and maintenance of existing infrastructure, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, advocates in her Energy 20/20 discussion blueprint for authorizing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “as the lead federal coordinator for electric transmission…infrastructure to help maintain reliability, alleviate congestion and enable stranded resources to supply demand.”

Senator Murkowski also suggests, “Congress should allow FERC to establish binding deadlines on other federal agencies and to require a single environmental review document.”

This language mirrors a central message of NEMA’s Chutes and Ladders: Siting Transmission Corridors.

As greater demands are placed on the grid and with energy efficiency and security growing concerns, major new investments in the grid are needed to make it more reliable, more efficient and smarter.

One impediment to such improvement is the arduous process of siting interstate transmission lines. A complex web of local, state, and federal regulations make it difficult to gain approval for a transmission line, even one that is absolutely essential to grid reliability or to the development of renewable energy. In fact, most proposed lines are never built.

Thought leaders continue to discuss the other pillar of NEMA transmission policy—establishing federal backstop siting authority—and think tanks like the Bipartisan Policy Center’s February 2013 report Policies for a Modern and Reliable U.S. Electric Grid have endorsed it. The report contains recommendations in four broad policy areas:

·      Encouraging efficient transmission and distribution investment

·      Advancing planning and operational coordination across jurisdictions

·      Enabling a more flexible and resilient system

·      Monitoring and enhancing operational reliability

Establishing even limited federal backstop authority remains controversial, but NEMA urges a full and frank discussion of transmission siting policy because the status quo is not up to the challenge of creating the robust and efficient grid we need today and in the future.

NEMA is the association of electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers, founded in 1926 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Its member companies manufacture a diverse set of products including power transmission and distribution equipment, lighting systems, factory automation and control systems, and medical diagnostic imaging systems. Worldwide annual sales of NEMA-scope products exceed $120 billion.

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