The U.S. Electric Transmission Grid: Essential Infrastructure in need of Comprehensive Legislation

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Report: The U.S. Electric Transmission Grid: Essential Infrastructure in need of Comprehensive Legislation

Abstract

Renewable Energy Transmission Company Inc (Retco) is a small, start-up company dedicated to building new transmission infrastructure. It is the sort of “green economy” business that the administration hopes will provide the engine for jobs growth over the next decade. Retco’s President, Stephen Burnage, has spent his entire career managing, developing, constructing and financing transmission businesses - both inside a utility environment and independently - in the US and across the world. His resume is unmatched in the US having being at the birth of “for profit” independent transmission in the early 1990’s before moving to the US in 2003, when the transmission model arrived here. From 2004 through 2008 he was responsible for the largest single transmission project in the US, before deciding (in 2009) to create his own independent transmission business. The US has had a significant problem with the grid for well over a decade but this is a difficult and complex business which few understand. Up until now, therefore, the problems have either been ignored or badly managed. These issues are, however, now attracting attention as the appreciation has grown that that they will constrain the deployment of new forms of renewable energy and the development of a new green economy. Because of this recent interest there has been a senate hearing, a FERC special conference and a series of papers examining issues with the grid since mid 2008. This has led, in turn, to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s draft “Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act” and similar draft legislation prepared by the staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Bingaman. The central premise of this paper is that while both drafts are mostly a step in the right direction, neither identify the central issues facing the grid and/or offer an adequate solution. Furthermore, there is some risk that this legislation, if passed in its current form, may actually do more harm than good and store up problems for future generations. The central premise of this paper is that while both drafts are mostly a step in the right direction, neither identify the central issues facing the grid and/or offer an adequate solution. Furthermore, there is some risk that this legislation, if passed in its current form, may actually do more harm than good and store up problems for future generations. This is understandable as the grid’s business, regulatory, legal, financial, technical and operational structures are very complex. Furthermore, the handful of industry insiders who do understand the grid often use language that is too technical; and/or conclude that they need to avoid arguing for radical reform because of sensitive relationship issues (with state regulators or other industry participants); and/or may have a near term business interest that is in conflict with the greater long term good of the country; and/or are employed in organizations where the grid is simply not very important. This paper seeks to avoid all of these limitations by offering policy makers the definitive (but simply worded) analysis of how the grid functions today with a view on what works well and what does not work - as clearly as possible – leading to an unbiased and candid assessment of the draft legislation and a recommendation on a better way forward.

The aim of the paper has been to identify what is best for our nation without any bias towards the business interests of any one group, including companies like Retco. The consequences of policy failure are simply too awful to contemplate and, quite frankly, companies like Retco will be kept more than busy with or without the proposed legislation. This paper, therefore, aims to combine the expertise of a well qualified insider with impartial objectivity – in order that our policy makers have the full benefit of an informed but balanced perspective.

Author 
Stephen Burnage





Organization 
Renewable Energy Transmission Company



Published 
N/A, 2009





DOI 
Not Provided
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Online 
Internet link for The U.S. Electric Transmission Grid: Essential Infrastructure in need of Comprehensive Legislation

Citation

Stephen Burnage (Renewable Energy Transmission Company). 2009. The U.S. Electric Transmission Grid: Essential Infrastructure in need of Comprehensive Legislation. N/A: N/A.