FERC Transmission Rules Will Accelerate Clean Energy Transition, Science Group Says

Published May 13, 2024

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The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released new rules today that will help accelerate the transition to a clean and equitable electric system by working to build more transmission capacity, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The new rules require utilities and regional grid operators to adopt 20-year plans that consider trends in technology and fuel costs, changes to resource mix and demand, more opportunities for state and utility collaboration, and extreme weather events, among other variables calculated by the “best available data.” The rules apply to the lower 48 states, aside from areas in Texas where there is no interstate electricity commerce.

UCS has pushed for strong transmission planning rules for the past 15 years, arguing reforms are critical to provide more communities with access to clean energy, ensure grid reliability, and enhance affordability. A recent UCS analysis found that to meet U.S. climate goals, transmission capacity needs to increase 36 percent by 2030, more than double by 2040, and quadruple by 2050.

Below is a statement by Sam Gomberg, the manager of transmission policy and a senior energy analyst at UCS.

“It may seem obvious that we should be planning for the future, but it simply hasn’t been happening across large swathes of the country when it comes to our electric grid. The new FERC rules are a critical step to ensuring our electric grid has the capacity and durability necessary to keep up with our clean energy ambition, meet climate goals, and guarantee affordable and equitable energy access for all.

“Planning for variables like future power plant additions and retirement, changes in consumer demand, and increases in extreme weather events will enable a more seamless and equitable transition to a clean energy economy and help ensure we maintain reliability in the midst of significant change over the coming years. Without these types of safeguards, we risk perpetuating a system that prioritizes polluting fossil fuels and private interests.

“I am pleased that FERC will require transmission planners to account for seven broadly recognized benefits of expanding transmission when determining whether to make investments. This, combined with FERC’s inclusion of state-approved plans for utilities’ changes in generation, moves the country to more just and reasonable planning standards.

Below is a statement by Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst at UCS.

“FERC’s rule directs utilities and RTOs to develop long-term plans for expanding transmission in a way that will ensure reliability, affordability, and access to clean energy for all. It is promising to see FERC insist on planning for the economic reality of renewable energy resources coming online quickly. With the transition to clean energy well underway, new collaborations between the public, regional planners and local utilities are critical. This requirement for a proactive approach engaging stakeholders in discussions about transmission plans is crucial for fostering transparency, accountability, and adaptability.

“Transmission operators like the Midcontinent ISO, with the support of UCS scientists and experts, are already working to plan for scenarios that support increased transmission and interconnection for renewable energy sources. We are hopeful that the new rules will encourage other regions to follow suit and end delays that are limiting significant consumer cost savings from bringing new supply online.”