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Tuesday,  June 18 , 2024

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Feds OK rule for transmission of renewable energy

It will make it easier to transmit power to electric grid

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press
Published: May 13, 2024, 5:04pm

WASHINGTON — Federal energy regulators on Monday approved a long-awaited rule to make it easier to transmit renewable energy such as wind and solar power to the electric grid — a key part of President Joe Biden’s goal to eliminate carbon emissions economy-wide by 2050.

The rule, under development for two years, is aimed at boosting the nation’s aging power grid to meet surging demand fueled by huge data centers, electrification of vehicles and buildings, artificial intelligence and other uses.

The increased demand comes as coal-fired power plants continue to be retired amid competition from natural gas, and other energy sources face increasingly strict federal pollution rules, setting up what experts say could be a crisis for electric reliability.

The grid is also being tested by more frequent service disruptions during extreme weather events driven by climate change.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the new rule, 2-1, with Chairman Willie Phillips and fellow Democratic Commissioner Allison Clements voting in favor. Republican Mark Christie opposed the rule, dismissing it as a gift to solar and wind power operators.

The sprawling, 1,300-page rule, which addresses transmission planning and cost allocations, will enhance the country’s aging grid and ensure U.S. homes and businesses keep the lights on for decades to come, Phillips said.

“This rule cannot come fast enough,’’ he said at a packed commission meeting at the agency’s Washington headquarters. “There is an urgent need to act to ensure the reliability and the affordability of our grid.’’

The U.S. power grid “is at a make-or-break moment’’ and is being tested every day, Phillips said, citing “phenomenal load-growth from a domestic manufacturing boom, unprecedented construction of data centers fueling an AI revolution and ever-expanding electrification” of vehicles and buildings.

At the same time, aging infrastructure, shifting economics and a range of state and federal policies are leading traditional resources to retire, he said. “On top of all of this, extreme weather events have become the norm, and the electric grid is routinely being pushed to the brink.’’

At the same time, construction of high-voltage power lines declined to a record low in 2022, “and much of that construction was simply Band-Aid fixes, rather than building a visionary grid of the future,’’ Phillips said.

Many power companies and Republican-led states don’t want to spend money on new transmission lines or upgrades for renewable energy, creating conflicts with Democratic states that have ambitious clean-energy goals.

Christie, the lone Republican on the three-member panel, said the rule “utterly fails to protect consumers and ensure reliable, low-priced power for American homes and businesses.”