Transmission Reforms and Large Customer Clean Energy Goals

Over the past year, the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA) has played a strong role in elevating the customer voice so it can meaningfully impact efforts to improve transmission planning. This has included continued engagement within FERC’s recent docket addressing planning and cost allocation. For energy customers newly engaging in FERC reforms and future implementation, The Clean Energy Buyers Institute’s (CEBI’s) newest primer on transmission planning is a useful resource.

Transmission and Clean Energy

As the grid has evolved, current transmission planning policies have become insufficient to accommodate 21st century grid operations, clean energy goals, and customer needs. Figure 1 below summarizes the key challenges that limit current transmission processes.

Figure 1: Current Transmission Planning Challenges

Current proposed FERC reforms are addressing transmission planning inputs and a FERC Technical conference this October will explore cost allocation, interconnection, and interregional planning. 

Transmission Planning Basics

Large energy customers who are new to transmission planning conversations likely have many questions about transmission infrastructure, oversight, levels of planning, asset ownership, and planning drivers. CEBI’s new Electric Transmission Planning Primer walks customers through these topics to provide a solid introductory guide or reference document for large clean energy customers.

Figure 2: Major Transmission Drivers

For example, transmission planning can be shaped by federal policy, but also occurs at both the regional and local level. This context is helpful in  understanding the complexity of reforms. In 2011, FERC Order 1000 was intended to spur new, interregional level planning, but little has materialized. The lack of planning at the interregional level has limited the ability of grid operators to take advantage of diverse geographic resources that could result in lower energy costs and increase reliability.

Source: Electric Transmission Planning Primer

Large energy customers also benefit from an understanding of the considerations that drive transmission projects, which include reliability, economic and public policy. See Figure 2 for more detail.  While the scope and sequencing of planning vary across regions, all planners consider these basic drivers when identifying and selecting transmission projects. Ensuring that a broader set of transmission benefits are considered by planners is a key goal for future transmission reform.

What’s Next for Transmission?

Transmission expansion is a critical enabler of reduced cost, increased reliability and accelerated clean energy deployment. As FERC moves towards a final rulemaking addressing planning and cost allocation, maintaining the customer voice in filings will support these goals. Once issued, engagement with grid planners on implementation approaches will also shape improved planning. The Electric Transmission Planning Primer is an excellent resource for large energy customers looking to better understand how transmission is planned and its impact on clean energy goals. This primer is part of a larger series designed to educate CEBA members and others on the basic elements of the 21st Century Electricity System.