High-voltage Concerns Brought to Light in Recent Papers

Management of transmission systems, reliability of transmission components and siting of transmission assets are among the high-voltage topics examined in several new studies available via Internet Web sites.

American Superconductor Corp. is responsible for the most recent of these paper releases. Its paper, titled “Making Power Markets Work: Back to Basics,” asserts that power transmission issues are proving to be the chief obstacle to the emergence of a robustly competitive electricity market. The paper’s author notes that while much of the debate surrounding transmission has focused on institutional and governance issues, hidden from view is the problem of serious physical constraints and bottlenecks in the current transmission system. The authors state that super conductors and super conductor-based power electronics solutions, combined with regulatory reform, can expand the power grid’s capacity, promote increased reliability and spur more effective competition without environmental impact.

Southern Company also recently released two papers weighing in on critical transmission system issues. The first report, authored by consulting firm Analysis Group/Economics Inc., states that it generally would be less expensive to locate generation close to consumers and build gas pipelines when needed than to build generation near gas fields and transmit the power to far-away consumers. The paper states that under current regulatory policies, where gas pipeline pricing is distance-sensitive and transmission pricing is not, the wrong price signal is being provided to generators. In the second report, “Southern Company Transmission Pricing Proposal,” Southern Company proposes a solution based on a regulated pricing framework that considers major factors that affect the cost of providing transmission service. Both papers are available for download at www.southerncompany.com.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) also has released a group of studies examining congestion on the transmission grid. The four studies, each written by independent experts, focus on the need for transmission investment. “The Case for New Electricity Transmission and Siting New Transmission Lines” explains why the U.S. power delivery system is becoming overburdened and addresses siting problems and possible solutions. “The Western Transmission Grid: The Urgent Call for Investment” focuses on the unique nature of the transmission system in the West and the need to take long distances into consideration when planning generation and transmission siting. “Electricity Competition and the Need for Expanded Transmission Facilities to Benefit Consumers” and “Expanding our Electric Transmission Network: Consumers Have an Interest at Stake” both examine how a strained transmission system affects consumers and the economy. All four papers are available at the EEI Web site at www.eei.org/issues/news/transmission.htm.

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