U.S., Seeking to Reshape Electric Grid, Adopts a Power Line Rule

By MATTHEW L. WALD  | The New York Times  |  Link to article

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators laid down principles on Thursday for planning and paying for new power lines, part of a long-term policy effort to help the nation’s electricity grid grow enough to meet the demands of renewable energy and a competitive electricity market.

The rule, which has been in the works for several years, is intended to push the organizations that manage the grid into cooperating with one another, so that developers can build power lines across several states and multiple electrical jurisdictions.

Such cross-jurisdictional transmission lines are becoming more important as states seek to reach their goals of integrating large amounts of wind and solar power, generally available in remote deserts and mountaintops, into the energy mix.

While generators of power, including renewable energy advocates, generally praised the rule, others were wary and said it could impose big costs on people who get no benefits.

But it has long been clear to grid experts that the existing transmission lines will not allow for a free market in electricity in which generators can compete across vast distances to supply customers, or for meeting state renewable energy goals. Existing rules make it very difficult for a company seeking to build new transmission lines to establish how it will recoup its costs.

The new rule, passed unanimously on Thursday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, does not specify what the formula should be for allocating costs, or precisely how new lines should be planned. But it does lay out general guidelines, including the notion that the costs should be borne by those who benefit. (full article)