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Published: 17 May 2019 17 May 2019
The United States urgently needs a 21st Century update of its aging power grid and the solution, well-planned transmission investment, will more than pay for itself according to a new report released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Grid Vision: The Electric Highway to a 21st Century Economy outlines why an interconnected, modern transmission grid is more important than ever as distributed solar, energy storage, and electric vehicles scale up, and maps out key policy reforms centred around the “Three Ps” of Planning, Paying and Permitting that are needed to make the vision a reality.
 
AWEA’s new report charts dozens of independent studies from across the country that quantify how transmission investments support consumer savings, improved grid reliability and resilience, a cleaner environment, and a more competitive economy. Grid operator analysis consistently finds that well-designed transmission projects provide consumer benefits 2-4 times greater than their costs by unlocking low-cost energy sources, like wind and solar, and reducing electricity market congestion.
 
Technology-driven changes in the sources of electricity supply and demand are increasing the importance of transmission. A strong transmission system is essential for getting more of our electricity from solar power, whether located on a rooftop or in a large installation in the desert. Battery storage, demand response, and other new technologies are valuable complements to transmission, but cannot substitute for transmission’s ability to move large amounts of power long distances. Electrification of transportation and building and water heating is also increasing the demand for a strong transmission system.
 
Substantial private investment is waiting to move on transmission, but projects struggle to be built under excessively long regulatory timelines and red tape. Centred around the “Three Ps” of Planning, Paying and Permitting, the paper outlines the policy reforms needed to realise the benefits of an expanded, improved and interconnected transmission system.
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