Utility-scale battery energy storage. Photo credit: Fluence

Clean Energy

Beyond Wires: Transmission Alternatives to Accelerate Clean Energy Transition

In order to integrate renewables nationwide and reduce the worst impacts of climate change, we need a robust, efficient, and modern electricity delivery network.

Transmission lines already crisscross much of our country, but the patchwork of high and low-capacity lines doesn’t always line up with where clean electricity is being generated or needed, causing overloaded transmission lines and wasted energy. We must improve the existing wires-based transmission system with smart technology to relieve energy congestion to ensure we can quickly and cost-effectively connect clean energy to the grid.

“Grid enhancing technologies can do for the transmission system what smart meters did at the distribution level, but they aren’t being deployed because transmission developers have no incentive to use them.”

-Jon Wellinghoff, Former FERC Chairman

Why must we move beyond traditional transmission lines?

Traditional transmission lines are expensive, time-consuming, and logistically difficult. The slow nature of traditional transmission construction has a disproportionate impact on clean energy projects since they represent the majority of new generation projects getting built. The climate crisis requires us to move towards clean, renewable energy as quickly as possible. Moving beyond wires is the best way to accelerate the interconnection of clean energy to the grid.

Map of current transmission lines across the US.

To be clear, this is not an “either/or” choice between traditional large wires projects and new grid-enhancing technologies. Both are needed. In some cases, it is necessary to build new transmission line projects to integrate more renewable energy. However, much of the US is already blanketed by transmission lines that could get renewables online today without waiting to build new wires. By embracing smart technologies in conjunction with transmission lines, the U.S. can reduce carbon pollution, protect the environment, limit costs, increase flexibility, create jobs, and promote transparency and competition.

How do we move beyond wires?

A combination of legal and expert intervention is required at the state, regional and national levels to achieve the electricity delivery system we need.

  • Require More Thorough Utility Studies – We need regular and standardized transmission utilization studies that will show how electricity is used throughout the grid on a more granular level to help identify opportunities for targeted non-wire solutions.
  • Create Better Coordination between States and RTOs – So that distributed energy resources and other grid enhancing technologies are given full consideration in the planning process, compensated as such when they are providing transmission services.
  • Ensure Fair Cost Allocation- We must push for rule/tariff changes that bring the existing compensation regime in line with the Federal Power Act by fairly compensating grid-enhancing technology projects. This will create a level playing field for all possible transmission solutions.

Who is the Beyond Wires Coalition?

ELPC is collaborating with Grid Policy, Inc and the Center for Renewables Integration (CRI) to transform the grid to meet the energy transmission needs of the future. Building on the work done by others at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Beyond Wires coalition works to ensure that technology solutions are fully considered and optimally deployed to maximize cost-effective electricity delivery.

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