WIRES to Congress: Transmission portions of stimulus package good but more must be done

Washington, D.C., Jan. 30, 2009 — Will Kaul, president of the Working Group for Investment in Reliable and Economic Electric Systems (WIRES), praised transmission-related elements of the economic stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives as “an important recognition that the electric transmission grid is vital to the nation’s economic health.” The House would appropriate more than $11 billion for a stronger and smarter 21st century electric transmission system.

“WIRES strongly endorses the steps being considered by Congress and the Obama Administration in this area,” Kaul said. “But this $11 billion represents just a small fraction of what is needed to build a 21st century transmission system. It will take a major infusion of private as well as government capital to do the job.”

Challenges to transmission development go beyond funding. “There are significant regulatory and operational barriers to entry,” said Jim Hoecker, former FERC chairman and WIRES’ legal counsel. “There are few ‘shovel-ready’ transmission infrastructure projects that will create jobs tomorrow. We have yet to figure out how to better plan, site, integrate and pay for major expansions and upgrades to the high-voltage system. Right now, the average lead time for transmission development will effectively delay the advent of the green energy economy for up to a decade or more. Congress must focus on addressing today’s unnecessarily complicated and protracted regulatory processes.”

Kaul also emphasized that economic stimulus legislation is not the only, or even the primary, way that Washington will try to change transmission legislation this year. He expects WIRES to press for a more modern and robust electric transmission system in the context of a widely-anticipated energy bill that will include a national renewable portfolio standard, and in climate change legislation, which will promote cleaner energy resources.

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