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Grid resilienceExpanding U.S. electric transmission systems to bolster grid resilience

Published 16 May 2018

Five major global companies—all of which have ambitious clean energy goals in the U.S.—have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to intensify its focus on expanding the nation’s electric transmission system as one key part of its push for grid resilience.

In letter sent to FERC last Wednesday, the corporate entities stressed that although the situation is “no emergency requiring immediate action” the federal grid regulators should seriously consider an improved and upgraded transmission line network in their proceedings on grid resiliency.

EL&P notes that the companies include Cargill, General Mills, Nestle, P&G and Unilever. They are among more than half of Fortune 100 firms-including Apple and others-which have set targets for getting half or up to all of their energy needs from renewable sources over the next few decades.

“In the U.S. and around the world, corporate commitments to procure renewable energy are a growing trend, driven mainly by recent sharp declines in cost, and by the price certainty that long-term renewable energy power purchase agreements offer,” the corporate letter to FERC reads.U.S. corporations have purchased over 10 GW of renewable energy from offsite projects to date and have set a goal to purchase an additional 50 GW by 2025.”

However, the nation’s transmission grid is not adapting to the future realities, the companies argued. In a recent webinar focused on the Wind Energy Foundation’s “Corporate Demand and Transmission” report, consultant David Gardiner pointed out that fifteen states situated between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains hold 88 percent of the U.S. wind potential and 56 percent of solar photovoltaic, but only 30 percent of projected electricity sales demand. (An upcoming story in POWERGRID International magazine’s May edition details this report).

“This letter demonstrates that major American companies are becoming increasingly interested in the future of the U.S. electricity grid,” Gardiner, president of David Gardiner and Associates, said in a press release accompanying the corporate letter. “These companies recognize expanding and modernizing the grid will deliver more reliable, cheaper and cleaner electricity to all consumers, including companies with strong clean energy goals.”

Long-distance, privately funded wind energy transmission projects like the proposed Plains & Eastern Clean Line and the Grain Belt Express, however, have run into resistance from states which say they see no customer benefit to the project.

The corporate letter argued that the current transmission planning and permitting process takes “far longer” than developing a renewable energy source and executing a power purchase agreement.

“As a result, it is now more important than ever that transmission planners take steps to better incorporate the forecasted demand within regional and inter-regional planning processes,” the letter reads. “Doing so will make the grid more reliable and resilient, while also ensuring that our companies have access to a pipeline of new, cost-competitive renewable energy generation.”

FERC is continuing grid resiliency proceedings and received filings from regional transmission organizations and independent system operators in the past month.