How do we get from here, the EIA base case, to there, the 290% increase in Waxman-Markey? To connect wind energy alone, the Department of Energy estimates that we will need 12,000 – 19,000 miles of new high voltage lines at cost of $20 to $26 billion. Without grid access, remote renewable projects can't get project financing. Industry representatives told Congress that it is no longer unusual for the approval process to take five or ten years.
Unfortunately, previous attempts to accelerate the siting process have been unsuccessful. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied FERC's federal backstop authority as provided by EPAct 2005. True reform of transmission siting requires an overhaul of the entire process. First, environmental concerns should be aired in an open process that takes months, not decades, coordinated by a federal agency. Second, a federal agency should have the ability to site a line if it is in the clear national interest to do so. Current climate legislation provides some of these building blocks, and we need to ensure that these measures are passed.