Okay, enough with the silly headlines. This isn't a satire or parody website (okay, well most of the time anyhow, I'm just in a mood tonight). Expecting laws to adapt to the behavior of the utility industry, instead of expecting the industry to adapt to the rules created to regulate it isn't a joke. Suppose instead of of a transmission grid we were talking about drug manufacturers. Would we expect the regulations that keep that industry in line to adapt to the whims of whatever the huge pharmaceutical corporations wanted to do to increase profits? Of course not. But for some reason, the utility industry wants us all to jump on the bandwagon calling for less regulatory scrutiny so they can construct a huge, expensive, dangerously centralized "national grid" at the electric consumer's expense.
In this interview with former FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher, now working for NextEra Energy Resources, Kelliher talks about ways to work around the federal court rulings that threw a wet blanket on plans for a huge transmission build out. NextEra bills themselves as the "Largest generator of wind and solar power in North America." And what does a generator of midwest wind need? New transmission lines. Hmm... cancel that call to Sherlock Holmes, we're not going to need him on this case after all.
There have been three major federal court decisions in the past couple of years that threw a monkey wrench into the system the utility industry had "put in place" courtesy of their bought and paid for legislators. First, the 4th Circuit said that FERC's backstop siting authority could not be invoked in the instance a state denied a transmission line application. Next, the 7th Circuit said consumers could not be forced to pay for transmission lines from which they receive no benefits and remanded cost allocation to FERC. FERC responded with its recent Order No. 1000. Finally, the 9th Circuit vacated the Department of Energy's "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors" which gave FERC their backstop siting authority to override state decisions, claim eminent domain powers, and site transmission lines.
Kelliher claims that the 4th Circuit's decision was in error and that "it's not the last word" on FERC's backstop siting power.
He also thinks that, in response to the 9th Circuit decision, DOE should re-implement NIETCs by allowing utilities to create smaller corridors "on request" for each project they propose.
He claims the EPAct of 2005 was flawed because it bifurcated authority between FERC and DOE. He thinks all authority should have been given to FERC, similar to their sole authority for siting gas lines. But, no matter, says Kelliher, there are ways to bend the existing laws to suit the industry's purposes, so all is not lost. Even if the industry push for federal control of transmission line siting doesn't happen soon enough, the industry can still manipulate existing law to usurp state authority and run a transmission line right through your living room, whether you like it or not.
Check out this crazy PowerPoint presentation by the Western Governors' Association. "Searching for a Unified Theory of Transmission and Renewable Energy Development in the West" is apparently governor code for "The Corporations That Stuff our Pockets with Cash Need to Make More $Money$ by Building New Transmission to Transport Renewables From Coast to Coast!" Take a look at Page 12, "Existing Paradigm for Renewables." This is the paradigm that makes the most sense, both from a physics and an economic standpoint. Page 13, "Changing the Paradigm" calls for large centralized generation areas in unpopulated areas connected to the rest of the country through a big network of huge transmission lines. It's a coast-to-coast blackout in the making and it's going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- paid for by you!
When are we going to stop letting corporate money elect the legislators who are supposed to be representing the people?
Let's do a little math here -- don't worry, it's really got more to do with simple logic than algebra. New transmission grid to serve "renewables" = additional cost to electric consumers of $220B. The talking heads tell us that this new grid will make electricity "cheaper." FERC says their new policy will ensure that people who do not benefit will not pay for it. Who's going to pay for this grid? Certainly not less people than are paying for transmission lines now, or it wouldn't be "cheaper." More people will be paying for this transmission grid. FERC's definition of "benefit" is going to be so broad that everyone is going to "benefit" and end up paying a lot more for their electricity in order to finance new transmission.
Now, imagine if renewables were developed on a smaller scale and localized to load and didn't require ANY new transmission lines? Cost for this version of meeting public policy goals = $0. Benefit to you? Priceless!