"The US Electricity Transmission System Is in Gridlock"

"How a national macrogrid could accelerate the movement to electrify everything".

"For more than a year, the utilities that own various parts of the Midwest's power grid have been advancing the largest investment in electricity transmission lines in US history: more than 2,000 miles of added transmission at an estimated cost of $10 billion. The 18 new lines promise a suite of advantages. Most will thread through existing rights-of-way to tread lightly on ecosystems and communities. The new transmission lines are expected to generate over $50 billion in economic benefits, including cheaper power bills, as well as reliability enhancements that will prove priceless during extreme weather. Most important, plugging wind, solar, and battery-storage into the added wires should more than double the Midwest's renewable energy capacity, juicing the region's nascent transition off fossil fuels.

"It's not as shiny as a solar panel or an electric vehicle or a wind turbine, but this is absolutely the type of work you need if we want to decarbonize the economy," said Priti Patel, the chief transmission officer for Great River Energy, a nonprofit power supplier that serves rural Minnesota and provides an electrical lifeline to some of the state's poorest communities.

Electricity transmission and power-grid policy are like the middle child of the clean energy revolution—all too easy to overlook—and the details of power transmission may seem arcane. But energy-sector policy experts, environmental groups, government officials, and utility executives all agree: Smarter grid planning is the master key to unlock the energy transition."

Peter Fairley reports for Sierra magazine September 18, 2023 with illustrations by Jarett Sitter.

Source: Sierra, 09/19/2023