Battle over national power grid heats up

And a huge amount of potential wind energy hangs in the balance:

The group, the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy, founded in January, is trying to block the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving a series of major transmission paths from wind-rich areas in the middle of the continent to load centers all over and then spreading the cost of the new lines around the whole country.

“It is fundamentally about fairness,’’ said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday with Senator Robert Corker, Republican of Tennessee, to denounce such a plan.

As is often the case with stories like this, you can learn more about the motivations and consequences by reading the comment section. Here's Michael Goggin of AWEA:

One would be less surprised at this opposition when they take a closer look at the membership of the CFTP. Without exception, the utilities involved have a strong financial stake in keeping America’s power grid obsolete and congested. Nearly every member of the group owns power plants in locations where congestion on the grid keeps out competition from lower cost sources of energy, like wind power. These companies stand to lose billions of dollars per year if transmission is built and they are no longer able to charge monopolistic prices for their electricity because of competition from wind energy. Some of the members of the group also profit handsomely from their ownership of transmission rights on congested transmission lines.

Moreover, these savings do not even include the benefits of improved power grid reliability, billions of dollars in economic development and job creation, and significant reductions in emissions. Around the country there are almost 300,000 MW of proposed wind projects, almost 10 times the amount that have been installed to date, that are waiting to connect to the grid but are unable to because of a lack of transmission. The state of Oregon alone has well over 10,000 MW of proposed wind projects waiting to connect to the grid, which if they were allowed to come online would bring billions of dollars in investment and thousands of jobs to the state. A 2008 Department of Energy report concluded that more than 500,000 jobs would be created by moving to obtaining 20% of America’s electricity from wind energy, with these jobs fairly evenly distributed to every state in the country.


I don't begin to understand the complexity

of this issue but it seems to me that a new grid should have justice as its core. Instead of a few tight fists holding the reigns of power, what if the new grid was owned by the public and anyone could produce energy in whatever way they could and sold it to a co-op that sold it to the end user.

While this coalition

uses a lot of terminology like "fairness", in reality, I think they would oppose your idea of a public (open access) grid even more than they oppose this current plan.

They're all big East Coast power companies selling coal energy to consumers, and these new transmission lines would bring (what will become) cheap wind power from the West. They don't want that, and they don't want small producers (here) taking any of their business, either.

Some of the problem could be the 'rate structure' in each....

state,which has been set up with the Utility commissions. That is where the companies plead their case for their ever increasing rates based on the ever increasing prices of oil and coal. And built into that is the ever increasing pay for the boards and executives who see themselves as such a valuable asset to their companies. Suddenly, as happened in some European areas, all this cheaper electricity is available, and would threaten their justification for the executive pay scales.

I have little doubt

that increasing access to other power sources would weaken local utilities' ability to push commissions for higher rates.

There are several reasons for power companies to fight this, but there are no good reasons, and they know it. Which is why they're trying to word it the way they are.