Wind could provide 20 percent of western US's electricity in 2030 and up to 35 percent in 2050—saving consumers billions—by adding to and updating grid transmission infrastructure, according to a new US Department of Energy (DOE) report, authored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The report, Reducing Wind Curtailment through Transmission Expansion in a Wind Vision Future shows that even limited additions to the US’s electric transmission grid would stimulate the economy in rural, western areas, increase grid reliability and security, and save customers billions of dollars a year.
“As Congress and the incoming Administration look for opportunities to enable private investments in American infrastructure, electric transmission should rise to the top,” said American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan. “Renovating and expanding our outdated electric grid aids national security while saving consumers billions of dollars and creating more ways Americans can earn a paycheck. And once built, expanded transmission opens new export markets for states like Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico, who will be able to turn their wind resource into gold.”
NREL found that adding four new transmission lines and developing wind farms in the Western US would lower the cost of electricity significantly. With such projects those states could get nearly 50 percent of their electricity from renewables with 35 percent coming from wind and 12 percent from solar. Expansion of wind capacity and new infrastructure alone could provide $2.3 to $3.4 billion a year in customer savings and pay for the transmission additions and grid updates in under five years.
To meet those annual savings utilities and states would need to invest in the grid. Across the US that’s expected to be a $350 to $500 billion investment. That creates a need for expanded loan programs to attract private sector investments. It also shows that a revision of the permitting process for renewable development and grid updates at state and local levels needs to be implemented in order to reduce costs.
“Congress and the Trump administration can open the floodgates for hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment to flow into modernizing our electric grid at no cost to the taxpayer. To do it, they would start by fixing unworkable transmission planning and permitting policies that block private investment. Right now permitting gets in the way of business and that can delay needed expansion of our nation’s grid by nearly a decade,” said Kiernan.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with numerous environmental advocacy organizations, echo the sentiment—that market reform and grid modernization is essential to optimizing the clean energy market while protecting the environment. Increasingly, NRDC has observed that solar and wind are lowering costs to customers and increasing employment opportunities across the US. More states are seeing such advantages as well. For instance, during 2016 Massachusetts saw a spike in renewable energy development and job growth as a result of state and local government’s ability to aggressively pass comprehensive energy diversification legislation.Tweet