One of the puzzling aspects of the evolving energy picture in the US is transmission.Â Many interests are pushing a huge transmission line building program to move electrons from the Dakotas eastward towards the Chicago area and on the to the East Coast. Part of this “plan” is to take away the ability of states and local communities to “stop the lines.”
But when one looks beneath the surface, two trends emerge: (1) most of the proposed lines seem to really be about moving coal and nuclear power around for “market” purposes, and (2) they are based on the assumption that “renewable” power will be in addition to, rather than in place of, coal and nuke power.Â In other words, transmission and generation interests are counting on being able to defeat effective energy efficiency programs that would reduce our present consumption ofÂ electricity.
An emerging regional competition pits New England and Mid-atlantic states wanting to develop their own resources, especially offshore wind, against Midwestern and Great Plains states wanting toÂ export bulk power.
Other players include the “system operators” such as PJM, incomprehensibly complex but plainly controlled by industrial interests, and transmission line owners themselves.Â Lines are sometimes part of integrated electric utilities, but increasingly are promoted by independent transmission enterprises such as the so-calle “Green Power Express.”
The May 4, 2009 letter, signed by the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Virginia, includes:
“… we must express our concern about the significant risks posed by recent proposals regarding transmission that we believe could jeopardize our states’ efforts to develop wind resources and inject federal jurisdiction in an area traditionally handled by states and regions.”
Significant onshore or offshore wind projects have been proposed or planned for almost all of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.Â Several of our states already have significant land-based wind projects installed or well underway and have established aggressive wind development goals.Â Moreover, the waters adjacent to the East Coast hold potential for developing some of the most robust wind energy resources in the world — enough wind potential to meet total U.S. electricity demand … Congress should put its full support behind the development of these resources.
Current legislative proposals focused on transmission, in contrast, would designate national corridors for transmission of electricity from the Midwest to the East Coast, with the costs for that transmission allocated to all customers. … this ratepayer-funded guarantee for land-based wind and other generation resources in the Great Plains would have significant, negative consequences for our region:Â it would hinder our efforts to meet regional renewable energy goals with regional resources … and could result in surplus transmission capacity or artificially inflated energy prices for Midwest renewables being paid by east coast ratepayers. … it is well accepted that local generation is more responsive and effective in solving reliability issues than long distance energy inputs.”
What’s this really mean?Â US energy policy is finally recognizing the reality of global warming and tilting away from coal.Â But with little real leadership from the Obama administration or the well-funded environmental NGO’s, really bad bills are being ginned up in Washington with polluter lobbyists calling the tunes.
The wind and solar industries are politically allied with the promoters of burning forests and garbage to make highly-polluting and ecologically destructive “biomass” power.Â Many state governments, like the US government, are actively promoting these very bad forms of “renewable” energy.
Without better leadership, people could be whipsawed:Â Confronted by transmission lines defacing their communities, and belching “biomass” smokestacks polluting their communities, and coal plants still burning,Â and zooming electric bills.Â If the pork-feasts now playing out in our statehouses and in Washington aren’t reigned in, this isn’t just possible but likely.
Many will welcome the letter from Markell and his fellow governors.Â Â But many will also wonder how much these governors really understand beyond lobbying for their local interests.Â (Markell’s Chief of Staff, Tom McGonigle, until recently represented Blue Water Wind.)Â Massachusetts Governor Patrick Duval has been especially guilty of promoting policies that could burn down the forests of his state while polluting the air his constituents breathe.
Gentlemen (all ten of these governors are male) you’ve taken a useful step, but it’s not nearly enough.