When asked about transmission in a recent interview by E&E, the Environmental Law & Policy Center's Howard Lerner panned transmission lines "for coal," while promoting lines "for wind."
From an environmental group perspective we're very interested and supportive of those lines if they're carrying wind power and clean renewable energy, as some of them are saying that they're doing.
To add to the hypocrisy, Lerner later talks up distributed generation:
Distributed generation, particularly solar, plays a vital role in terms of reliability, cleaning up the air and saving money for consumers. The efficiencies of solar panels are going up, the costs are coming down, and those entities that are getting behind it I think will be in good shape. People who are trying to stop the progress technologically when it comes to solar are going to be like the utilities that had landline telephones that tried to stop wireless telecommunications. It almost never works to stand in the way of technological progress.
Howard also demonstrates how hookwinked he is about the cost to ratepayers of new transmission "for wind."
Well, renewable energy wind power can bring costs down. Building new transmission of course passes costs on to consumers. Some of the transmissions being used for renewables, some of that transmission is being used for coal. So what you have to do is not look at it as one size fits all, but look at particular transmission lines and really say, No. 1, are the costs justified? Are the benefits greater than the costs, and therefore you can build a line? Or had the world changed in which a particular transmission line, and there are a number of lines that are being challenged on this basis, given the demand has gone down is there less need for the lines, they shouldn't be built? Secondly the question is is the line carrying renewable energy like wind power, or is it carrying coal and natural gas? The premise of what the Midwest independent system operator did is that these transmission lines, they call them the MVP lines, are supposed to be carrying wind power. Some of them do, some of them don't very much. And that's going to be an issue both before the regional commissions and also an issue before FERC.
I don't think Howard cares how much transmission costs as long as someone tells him it is "for wind." Environmental groups are not very good advocates for consumer prices, so maybe they should stop trying to influence transmission development to meet their environmental goals. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if transmission was planned by grid planners, and not environmentalists, or politicians. Let the grid planners plan the grid guided by what the users of the grid want, not by what is environmentally desirable, politically expedient, or profitable for private investors.
But being seen as hypocritical by the consumers who pay for it all doesn't seem to bother these folks, as I saw demonstrated during a recent "webinar" by Big Wind's Big Front group. During the webinar, both the representative from regional grid planner PJM Interconnection, and the representative from the Rocky Mountain Institute, pointed out that the decision has not been made whether to pursue a big, new grid build out "for wind," or whether a localized, distributed generation future that does not require a whole bunch of new transmission would be more prudent. In fact, their presentations proffered information that a distributed generation future is highly likely, and more cost effective. But, never to allow reality to intrude on their fantasies, the environmental group and the "clean" transmission developer plowed presumptively right ahead with their "for wind" presentations, like the decision had already been made.
But, that's okay. The ones who actually make the decisions don't listen to the environmental groups or the transmission developers, they just pat them on the head and carry on with business. I think it might be pretty frustrating for the poor, little cleaniacs.
In the end, technology cannot be stopped by the financial wants of developers, or the pipe dreams of environmental idealists. Hold the line, transmission opponents, the future is bright!