Thursday marks a year since Democrats secured the surprise deal that led to the biggest climate law in U.S. history, with hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies aimed at transforming the economy around green power.
The big problem: The U.S. needs thousands of miles of new transmission linesto support the planned deluge of solar and wind projects. But it can take a decade or more to get a transmission line through all its permitting hoops — and years of vows by lawmakers of both parties have failed to make the process any faster.
The debt ceiling deal passed earlier this year mandated a study on the issue, but that’s it. Meanwhile, recent research found that the U.S. must add transmission capacity at double its current rate, or else miss out on half the possible carbon reductions from expanding renewables.
In the absence of any legislative rescue, Democrats are looking beyond the Hill for help.
Enter FERC: Pressure is now on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — which meets Thursday — to help free up the congested transmission system. The regulatory agency has proposed a rule that would change how to plan and allocate the costs of large transmission lines.
“The success or failure of this commission will be defined by how they address these critical transmission rules,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a release this week.
Clean energy advocates will be watching Thursday to see how the commission handles a proposal to require grid operators to place a priority on connection requests for projects that have reached certain commercial milestones. The aim is to weed out projects less likely to get built, as Miranda Willson and Kelsey Brugger wrote this week.
But experts say the rule would only address part of the problem — easing the large backlog of renewables waiting to be connected to the grid.