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Topic: Transmission

[Episode #227] – FERC Order 1920

The United States faces significant challenges in deploying enough transmission capacity and interconnections to support a modernized grid. Approximately 2.5 TW of new clean wind, solar, and storage capacity is currently on hold — twice the country’s current generating capacity of 1.28 TW. These projects are just awaiting transmission interconnections. Building the necessary infrastructure and securing these interconnections would revolutionize the U.S. power grid, likely eliminating all fossil-fuel (and eventually nuclear) generation.

However, investor-owned utilities have historically obstructed the development of new transmission capacity, both within and between their regional transmission grids. In 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sought to address these barriers with Order 1000, but utilities resisted, attempting to undermine and weaken the order. Despite some progress within Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), no new transmission projects outside of these RTOs have been realized under Order 1000. This bottleneck has hindered the energy transition and state-level goals to expand clean energy use and phase out fossil-fueled power under their own renewable portfolio standards.

In response, FERC introduced Order 1920 in May this year, aimed at compelling utilities and regional transmission organizations to undertake long-term regional planning of transmission systems.

In this episode, we are rejoined by Ari Peskoe, Director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, to walk us through the history of Order 1000 and to explain the implications of the new Order 1920. He’s one of the top scholars in the country on transmission regulation and we’re very pleased that he was willing to share his expertise with us once again.

This 80-minute discussion gets quite technical, but after listening to it you will begin to see a clear picture of a future in which new transmission lines unlock the potential of the wind and solar resources in the US and help us completely decarbonize the power grid.

Guest:

Ari Peskoe is Director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School.  He has written extensively about electricity regulation, on issues ranging from rooftop solar to Constitutional challenges to states’ energy laws.

On Twitter: @AriPeskoe

On the Web: Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #218] – Accelerating Decarbonization in the US

How can we accelerate the decarbonization of the entire US economy?

In this episode, we discuss the energy-related decarbonization strategies outlined in a new report from the National Academies, titled “Accelerating Decarbonization in the United States: Technology, Policy, and Societal Dimensions,” with Dr. Sue Tierney, a Senior Advisor at Analysis Group and a renowned expert in energy and environmental economics, regulation, and policy. Dr. Tierney played a key role in the Committee on Accelerating Decarbonization in the United States, which developed and coordinated this landmark study. We explore how decarbonizing the US requires much more than simply substituting renewables for fossil fuels in power generation and EVs for oil-burning cars. A broad array of solutions must be deployed, but they face numerous barriers and risks to implementation.

Trillions of dollars have been allocated for these energy and technology solutions through three significant laws passed in 2022: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act. However, effectively mobilizing these funds requires willing collaboration from a diverse group of local, municipal, and state actors, including elected officials, regulators, agency staffers, as well as community and business leaders.

Listen in to learn why delivering a successful energy transition, along with a host of other benefits such as justice, equity, health, jobs, and sustainability writ large, necessitates understanding the barriers to implementation and identifying the types of policies and programs needed to keep the US on track to achieving net zero.

Guest:

Dr. Sue Tierney is a Senior Advisor at Analysis Group and is an expert on energy and environmental economics, regulation, and policy, particularly in the electric and gas industries.  Previously, she was the Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, and in Massachusetts, she was the Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Commissioner at the Department of Public Utilities, and head of the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Council. She currently chairs the Board of Resources for the Future and the National Academies’ Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, and serves on the boards of other NGOs and foundations.  She was a member of the National Academies’ Committee on Accelerating Decarbonization in the U.S. and the Committee on the Future of Electric Power. Her Ph.D. is in regional planning from Cornell University

On Twitter: @analysisgroup

On the Web:  Analysis Group

Geek rating: 6

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[Episode #188] – Getting to a 100% Clean Grid

How much of a role might wind, solar, nuclear, transmission, power plants equipped with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, or direct air capture of CO2 play on a 100% clean power grid? Which mix of those technologies would provide the cheapest pathways to a clean grid?

And once we have met 90% of the need for grid power with clean generation, what will we need to meet the last 10% of the demand for grid power? Will it be ‘overbuilt’ wind and solar? Dispatchable geothermal, hydropower, and bioenergy generators? Seasonal storage using hydrogen or batteries? Conventional fossil-fueled plants with CO2 capture? Or might it be some mix of flexible demand technologies? Or some or all of the above?

For that matter, how certain can we even be about modeling the possible solutions years or even decades ahead? Are there solutions that might play a large role in the future but that we can’t yet model very well? How confident should we be that whatever the solutions turn out to be, we will end up with not only a grid that is completely free of carbon emissions but also one that is fully reliable?

In this episode, we speak with a senior researcher at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) who has been researching and modeling grid power for many years. In this quite technical discussion, we review two new NREL reports that address these questions and show that producing a 100% clean power grid is not only technically feasible by a variety of pathways but also commercially feasible and ultimately, cheaper than continuing to run the fossil-fueled power grid we have today.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #187] – Transition in Vermont, Part 2

This is Part 2 of the first series in a new format we are piloting for the Energy Transition Show. Instead of exploring a particular topic with one guest who has a non-commercial perspective, as most of our shows so far have done, this new format aims to tell the stories about how the energy transition is proceeding in some of the places Chris visits in his travels. Through interviews with multiple local experts, including those who are working in the energy sector, we hope this new format will help to demonstrate how the unique challenges and opportunities in every place will determine its particular path through the energy transition.

We are kicking off this new show format with some stories about Vermont for a simple reason: When it comes to the energy transition, Vermont stands out as a place that punches way above its weight. It has innovated numerous policies and mechanisms to reduce its energy consumption and carbon emissions that have been emulated by other US states. And it continues to serve as a model to the rest of the country for effective energy transition strategies.

You’ll learn more about all of these accomplishments, as well as what makes Vermont such an exemplar in the energy transition, in this two-part miniseries based on interviews with eight local experts.

Part 1 was in Episode #186, in which we discussed the supply side of Vermont’s energy picture. In this second part, we look at the demand side.

Interviews with guests featured in this episode were recorded from October 11-15, 2021.

Geek rating: 4

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[Episode #186] – Transition in Vermont, Part 1

This is the first show in a new format we are piloting for the Energy Transition Show. Instead of exploring a particular topic with one guest who has a non-commercial perspective, as most of our shows so far have done, this new format aims to tell stories about how the energy transition is proceeding in some of the places Chris visits in his travels. Through interviews with multiple local experts, including those who are working in the energy sector, we hope this new format will help to demonstrate how the unique challenges and opportunities in every place will determine its particular path through the energy transition.

We are kicking off this new show format with some stories about Vermont for a simple reason: When it comes to the energy transition, Vermont stands out as a place that punches way above its weight. It has innovated numerous policies and mechanisms to reduce its energy consumption and carbon emissions that have been emulated by other US states. And it continues to serve as a model to the rest of the country for effective energy transition strategies.

You’ll learn more about all of these accomplishments, as well as what makes Vermont such an exemplar in the energy transition, in this two-part miniseries based on interviews with eight local experts.

In this first part, we talk about the supply side of Vermont’s energy picture. In the second part, we’ll look at the demand side.

Interviews with guests featured in this episode were recorded from October 11-15, 2021.

Geek rating: 4

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[Episode #180] – Transition in Alberta

Full Episode

Alberta is the seat of the Canadian oil & gas industry, as well as a major coal producer, so it has historically struggled to align with the energy transition - focusing more on pipelines than turbines. But Alberta is changing. Now, the province has implemented numerous policies designed to support the transition, installing a significant amount of wind and solar power generation capacity. According to the Alberta Electric System Operator, 14% of the province’s electricity generation in 2020 was from renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar.

In this episode, we are joined by energy expert Dr. Sara Hastings-Simon to discuss the challenges and opportunities for energy transition in Alberta. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, where she directs the Masters of Sustainable Energy Development program. She is an expert in energy, innovation, and climate policy, and her work is focused on understanding how energy and industrial transitions happen within different sectors of the economy, and how policy responses can improve outcomes. She is also the co-host of the Energy vs. Climate podcast, which will run this conversation on their podcast feed as well.

We talk about the recent history of the various efforts to build pipelines and LNG facilities to export more Canadian oil and gas; the outlook for exports of hydropower; the progress of Canada’s coal phase-out; and the potential for expanding renewable generation in the province, including geothermal. Sara also shares her perspective on how Canada’s carbon tax regime has played out.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #179] – Offshore Wind in the US

Although offshore wind has been booming for decades in Europe, it has gotten a slow start in the US. But that’s about to change. From a single 30 MW offshore wind farm today, offshore wind capacity in the US is expected to reach 1 GW in just two years, and grow by a factor of 40 over the next two decades to 30 GW under a new target set by the US Government.

In today’s episode, we speak with Patrick Gilman, a Program Manager in the US Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office. For the past 14 years, Patrick has led a wide range of analysis, research and development, and deployment activities to help advance wind’s role in the US energy sector. We talk about the global state of the offshore wind sector; the technical and practical potentials for offshore wind in the US; how offshore wind can reduce the need for transmission capacity and balance out the production from land-based wind and solar farms; and how it can create good jobs and stimulate manufacturing. We’ll also look at some of wind's unique advantages over land-based resources, like easier paths to deploying transmission capacity. Wind might even be a good way to produce hydrogen we can use to decarbonize the hard-to-decarbonize sectors.

Join us for this comprehensive look at the present and future of offshore wind in the US. It may be the most exciting sector in energy over the next two decades.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #175] – Community Support and Opposition

Why do people take a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude toward hosting energy transition solutions like wind, solar farms, and transmission lines in their communities? And what can be done about it? What do project developers and community planners need to understand about why a community accepts or rejects energy transition proposals? Are there specific methods that have proven effective in earning a community’s support, and are there common missteps that are guaranteed to derail a project? And what is the role of building and planning agencies in guiding the development of community projects?

In this episode, Dr. Sarah Mills of the University of Michigan offers some answers to these questions. Not only has she researched these questions by talking to people in energy transition infrastructure host communities across the American Midwest and the Great Lakes regions, with a particular focus on rural communities, Dr. Mills also acts as the chair of her local planning commission, and tries to help local governments set policies around the development of clean energy by integrating it into their land-use planning, zoning, and other policymaking. Sarah Mills is a true expert in the field, and she offers important insights in this conversation that every renewable energy project advocate needs to hear.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #174] – Decarbonizing Britain’s Grid

As the energy transition proceeds and variable renewable power from wind and solar displaces conventional generators, strict operational limits for the grid's voltage, frequency, and inertia must be maintained. To do this, grid operators are increasingly procuring so-called “stability services” and making other enhancements to the grid that ensure stability.

In this episode, we take a close look at how Great Britain is undertaking this stability challenge by interviewing Julian Leslie, Head of Networks and Chief Engineer at National Grid ESO, which runs the transmission grid for the country. Not only does National Grid ESO operate the fastest-decarbonizing electricity network in the world, it has also recently achieved several important technical accomplishments for the first time in the world, including implementing cutting edge tools that allow accurate measurements of inertia across its system; using grid-forming inverters to provide synthetic inertia; and using synchronous condensers without an associated prime mover. And in another world-first achievement, the company has actually written the specification for using grid-forming inverters into its grid code.

Julian explains all of these technical concepts in today’s conversation and lays out the deliberate strategy that the company is taking to ensure that it can deliver on Great Britain’s decarbonization objectives while maintaining system stability and saving British consumers a great deal of money.

This is a highly technical episode with a Geek Rating of 9, so if you want to brush up on grid power engineering concepts first before listening to this one, you could start with our Energy Basics miniseries—in particular, Episode #126 about how power generators and the grid works—then move on to Episode #55 on voltage stability, and then Episode #153 on grid-forming inverters. Then return to this one.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #161] – Expanding Transmission

It has been nearly impossible to get new transmission built across the US in recent years, thanks to a combination of local opposition from host communities, jurisdictional issues, and the resistance of major utilities, alongside other factors. But with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (previously known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill) now committed to law, there are fresh hopes that new transmission lines can be built in the US to unlock the truly massive renewable resources that are currently unable to get to market… resources that are critical to helping the US decarbonize its economy. There are also new techniques for building transmission, and potentially new regulations that can overcome resistance to new lines.

In this episode, we revisit the topic of transmission and see what needs to happen to get new transmission projects moving in the US. We also ask whether a macro grid based on big transmission lines is still really the cheapest and best solution, or if more distributed solutions might be worth reevaluating in light of updated cost data and some contemporary grid modeling.

Our guest in this episode is Liza Reed, the research manager for low carbon technology policy at the Niskanen Center in Washington, D.C., an expert in High Voltage Direct Current, electricity transmission, and technology innovation. She shares with us the latest thinking about transmission, and helps us tie together some of the threads we have discussed in previous episodes, to paint a picture of how more transmission can bring hundreds of gigawatts of renewable power to market in the US.

Geek rating: 8

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