The energy industry in this country has long struggled to find suitable locations for plants and resource development. That's because for decades they've faced NIMBY — community activists who put up roadblocks to ensure such efforts were "Not In My Back Yard." But the politics of the 21st century has taken this activism to a new level. Now we have BANANA — nationwide activists that demand we "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. "
Unfortunately, if the politics of BANANAs is not managed properly by the Obama administration, it will derail the President's avowed goal of building a modern 21st-century electrical grid. That's because two of the most important aspects of Smart Grid — the siting of new tranmission corridors and renewable energy projects — have run into a political wind turbine and are being stalled.
According to the US Chamber's "Institute for 21st Century Energy," at last count across the country there were roughly a dozen tranmission line projects and close to 50 renewable energy projects at various stages of the regulatory approval process. But BANANA activists have been able to use the unpredictable and needlessly complex regulatory maze to delay most of these. Institute President Karen Harbert calls this "green tape." (For an overview of all the projects that have been stopped across the country due to BANANAs, see the Chamber's Project No Project website.)
That's the irony of Smart Grid politics: environmental activists who support the incorporation of renewable energy sources — wind and solar in particular — into the electrical grid do damage to their cause when they oppose permits for transmission line projects. If renewable energy generation is not hooked up to the grid through a comprehensive systems of transmission corridors, that energy project cannot pay for itself and developers and financers will stop investing in such renewable projects.
Considering NEMA's commitment to launching a Smart Grid in the coming decade, you're going to see us take this issue head on. An energy efficient society is going to require an expedited regulatory process for new transmission lines and renewable energy projects.