This week, the deadline passed for the federal government to appeal the February ruling by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which invalidated the establishment of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. These NIETCs were conceived in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and designed by the Department of Energy to streamline the regulatory landscape in two of the most congested regions of the country—the Southwest and the Mid-Atlantic. If progress in these areas can be stymied, what does that mean for the rest of the country?
Given this setback, DOE’s next steps to address the nation’s inadequate electric infrastructure are unclear.
What is clear is that energy demand is growing and what Americans are demanding is more renewable sources of energy. Both of these factors lend urgency to the need for major investments in electric transmission facilities. Yet regulatory barriers—and now court decisions—continue to stand in the way of progress.
There are some good financing proposals in the Senate—the BUILD Act and a draft Clean Energy Deployment Administration bill in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee—but financial incentives and tools are of limited value when getting permission to make investments in the grid is as arduous as it is today.
Until we get serious about building transmission lines and facilities, meeting increased energy demand and integrating large amounts wind, solar, and other renewables is going to be a very difficult undertaking.