Opposition to transmission lines may block Obama’s vision of new power grid

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By Jay Vincent

Senior Vice President for Energy, The Saint Consulting Group

towerPower companies have numerous examples of how years of delay by environmental and local protests in the permitting process held up power line projects before President Obama gave the green light to transform the initiative into a broad national goal.

The New York Times suggests an opportunity for energy interests to work together in support of a nationwide audit, analysis and facelift of transmission infrastructure serving 21st power demand. However, it also provides an equal opportunity for interests opposed to both renewable projects like wind farms and traditional base load power generation like coal- and gas-fired plants to get together and locally defeat projects by cutting off power’s delivery to demand.

A developing trend in wind energy opposition has been to go after siting transmission infrastructure as a strategy to defeat particular projects that are unwanted due to impacts on wildlife preservation and view shed issues.

As the old saying goes, “politics makes strange bedfellows.” It will be quite interesting to see how, with an increasingly constrained interstate transmission system, traditional energy interests like coal and gas may team up with clean and green renewable developers to sew the political quilt of votes together that will move Washington to tackle this issue.
Likewise, how will the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Greenpeace and others work together to advocate in Washington, state capitols and local town councils nationwide when overhauling and expanding the nation’s grid serves both “clean” and “dirty” power generation?
The American Wind Energy Association has welcomed a study that suggests investment in the power grid to enable wind to supply 20% of the electricity needs of the Eastern U.S. would save consumers $12 billion annually, recovering capital costs in as little as seven years while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making the power grid more reliable.

The Houston Chronicle looks at how Obama’s energy stimulus package serves and swerves around Texas’s considerable fossil fuel and alternative energy interests.

Jay Vincent is senior vice president for energy, The Saint Consulting Group, email vincent@tscg.biz, phone 312.970.5770 Ext: 7502

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