Report: Regional Transmission Collaboration Across the West and Southeast Would Bring Significant Economic and Reliability Benefits
Independent Regional Planning Would Facilitate Trustworthy, Cost-Effective Coordination
Washington, D.C. (Feb. 9, 2023) — Independent region-wide transmission planning would bring cost savings and reliability benefits and help create trustworthy and transparent transmission outcomes for energy customers in the U.S. West and Southeast, according to a report released today by Grid Strategies and the Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI).
“It’s clear that all customers in the West and Southeast would benefit from more efficient transmission planning and enhanced grid reliability that could be enabled through greater regional coordination,” said Heidi Ratz, deputy director of market and policy innovation with CEBI. “State leaders and stakeholders in these regions should support ways to expand regional coordination and develop independent regional transmission planners and processes.”
“Customers in two-thirds of the country rely on independent, trusted, expert transmission planners to achieve greater reliability and cost-savings. Western and Southeastern customers deserve the same benefits,” said Rob Gramlich, president of Grid Strategies.
The report, written by Grid Strategies in coordination with CEBI, examines the state of transmission planning in the West and Southeast and describes the reforms needed to establish robust and transparent regional planning. In both of these regions, transmission planning is limited to utility-level planning and is not run by a trusted, transparent independent entity.
Geographically broad and robust planning is especially important in the West, where longer distances stretch between load centers and energy resources. Transparency in planning is also critical, particularly in the Southeast, where regional planning entities are able to withhold access to critical information and provide minimal opportunities for stakeholder engagement on project costs and time horizons.
The report evaluates the benefits of establishing independent entities to manage region-wide transmission planning and the additional functions that a regional transmission organization (RTO) could provide. RTOs have a track record of establishing permanent stakeholder forums for planning processes that address reliability, market, and policy drivers, in addition to local planning. RTOs also can help unlock synergies between transmission service, interconnection, energy markets, and resource adequacy.
Large and small energy customers benefit from a robust transmission network driven by regional-level analysis, the report notes. When the grid is congested, the local utility must dispatch higher cost generation and pass those costs on to consumers.
Reliability benefits of regional connections also are increasing. Localized threats such as extreme weather can affect supply sources while also causing demand to spike. In just a short period of time, the costs of limited transmission can be so extreme that the savings from capacity expansion can cover the costs of the investment.
For these reliability and economic reasons, large-scale regional and interregional transmission is needed now, in all regions, and transmission planning must be run by an independent entity to be objective and trustworthy.
The Clean Energy Buyers Institute is a nonprofit organization focused on solving the toughest market and policy barriers to achieving a carbon-free energy system in collaboration with policymakers, leading philanthropies, and energy market stakeholders. CEBI is the 501(C)3 research affiliate of the Clean Energy Buyers Association, a business trade association that activates a community of energy customers and partners to deploy market and policy solutions for a carbon-free energy system. In 2022, commercial and industrial energy customers announced a record-breaking 16.9 gigawatts (GWs) of new clean energy deals and have advanced more than 60 GW of carbon-free energy projects since 2014. For more information, visit cebi.org and follow us on LinkedIn.
Grid Strategies is a power sector consulting firm helping clients understand the opportunities and barriers to integrating clean energy into the electric grid. Drawing on extensive experience in transmission and wholesale markets, Grid Strategies analyzes and helps advance grid integration solutions. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, the firm is actively engaged with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Energy, state public utility commissions, regional transmission organizations, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), congressional committees, the presidential administration, and various stakeholders. For more information, visit our website.