Planning for new transmission

Transmission takes years (typically five years or more) to plan, permit and build.  Therefore, the planning must be done many years in advance in order to ensure a sufficient grid to meet demand in the future. 

How transmission planning works

Transmission planning is done using models to analyze various scenarios related to demand, generation resources, and other factors.  It is typically done by individual utilities or regional grid operators (known as regional transmission organizations, RTOs, or independent system operators, ISOs). 

The geographic and time-scale focus is often too narrow.  This can lead to inefficient planning and build-out because these entities only see and plan for their portion of the grid to serve load in their area.

Coordination among entities supports broader transmission planning

Economies of scale can be achieved and resources shared, thus lowering costs to consumers and reducing the environmental footprint of transmission, through more cooperative planning among entities. 

Fortunately, both FERC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have taken steps consistent with those advocated by AWEA to implement broader transmission planning and to plan for increased wind energy deployment.

FERC Order 1000 supports regional coordination, new energy expansion

In Order 1000,  FERC finds that its previous regulations were insufficient to ensure an open, transparent, and comprehensive transmission planning process. 

To address those issues, the order requires transmission providers to adopt transmission planning reforms on both a regional and an interregional basis, providing clearer guidance on the collaborative processes they need to follow when identifying transmission needs and solutions.  

Under the order, all transmission planning regions must produce a plan reflecting solutions that meet the region's needs efficiently and cost-effectively.  When new transmission additions are to span the boundaries of two neighboring regions, FERC requires that regions must coordinate with each other. 

Additionally, the order supports renewable energy expansion by requiring planners to consider renewable portfolio requirements (RPS) and other public policy objectives when evaluating needs.  The order states that the new transmission plans must fully take into account transmission needs driven by state or federal laws or regulations, like RPS or carbon policies. 

DOE funding leads to transmission plans for Eastern & Western regions

Beginning in 2009, DOE funded interconnection-wide transmission planning, which will result in two broad transmission plans: one for the Eastern U.S. and one for the Western U.S. 

AWEA staff served on the steering committee for the eastern process.  The wind industry had a representative on a key committee in the west as well.

It is unclear at the moment whether this expanded cooperation on transmission planning will continue on into the future.