Wednesday, June 12, 2024

New FERC Rule Helps Virginia Upgrade Transmission Infrastructure

If power grid operators cannot change the interconnection process in time, data show around 80% of the emissions reductions expected from the Inflation Reduction Act might not happen. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — A new rule from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could improve Virginia’s electric grid transmission capacity.

It requires utilities and grid operators to plan 20 years ahead to accommodate expected changes in energy production. The rule is designed to help Virginia meet the high energy demands of the growing data center market and prevent service disruptions in extreme weather.

Nick Guidi, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the rule will help the state reach its climate goals.

“For the first time in a lot of these states, the transmission planning process will have to explicitly take into account state goals and corporate clean energy goals,” Guidi explained. “That hasn’t really happened before.”

He added the current process holds back state activity. The rule faced sharp criticism from FERC Commissioner Mark Christie. He characterizes it as a way to enact policies never passed by Congress and calls it “a blatant violation of the major questions doctrine.” Guidi thinks it could lead to legal challenges.

Another new rule makes transmission siting easier.

Jon Gordon, policy director for the group Advanced Energy United, feels the FERC orders create advancements in transmission infrastructure development, calling it an arduous but necessary process to improve transmission capacity.

“I think as a country we’ve sort of gotten behind the 8-ball on upgrading our transmission infrastructure,” Gordon asserted. “Now we’ve reached a point where we need to move quickly on transmission upgrades to ensure reliability.”

He added more comprehensive long-term transmission planning is needed to ensure the lowest-cost transmission is built for reliability.

Virginia passed legislation making transmission easier. It comes as the state’s grid operator, PJM Interconnection, which ranked poorly in a report due to a backlog of interconnection projects. The law means an additional 40% capacity for the current grid and saves the state congestion costs.

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