Transmission planning is the process of planning and implementing the most reliable and cost-effective ways to connect power sources to customers. When done correctly it can significantly improve environmental quality and support. Done poorly, it can frustrate clean energy policies and economic development and provide lifelines to fossil power. Good transmission planning considers a range of different solutions, including upgraded and new lines and innovative transmission technologies.
Despite the clear need for planning a system around a decarbonized power grid, transmission planning continues to suffer from a host of challenges, including especially the question of matching those who benefit from building new lines with those who pay for the lines. For example, in a grid with far-flung wind resources, customers of one state might benefit from accessing that power yet sometimes customers in another state might be on the hook for an unreasonable share of the costs of new power lines.
Deciding who pays comes into sharp focus when considering who pays for projects between two grid regions. Due to weak interregional planning requirements in FERC’s Order 1000 process, very few projects have been approved between grid regions.
As challenging as planning is in a regional transmission organization (RTO) region, it is much harder in non-RTO regions like the inter-mountain West and the South, where there is no regional planning region with clear responsibility for assigning the costs of any transmission projects across the region.
The Sustainable FERC Project participates in transmission planning processes across the country to ensure that RTOs and other grid planners:
- Plan for growing levels of renewable energy from often-remote areas to customers including from offshore wind;
- Reduce impediments to new wind and solar projects seeking to connect to the power grid;
- Take advantage of economies of scale whenever possible by approving fewer larger lines that can do the job of many smaller projects;
- Consider high-tech solutions like power flow controls and dynamic line ratings to more efficiently move power.
RECENT TRANSMISSION PUBLIC DOCUMENTS