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Green Transmission: Imperative and Pitfalls

R.H. Bezdek, R.M. Wendling

Keywords: renewable energy, wind, transmission, cost


Significant growth in renewable energy electricity generation will require major expansion of electricity transmission grids. In the U.S., this could require the building of an additional 20,000 miles of transmission over the next decade – double what is currently planned. This presentation summarizes the results of a recent that finds that a huge expansion of U.S. transmission lines will be required from where wind and solar will be generated – primarily the Midwest and the southwest – to the major load centers on the east and west costs. Another finding is that, if such transmission is built and local access is allowed, then the major beneficiaries of the added transmission may be existing power generation facilities. Many of these facilities have very low electricity generating costs and their capacity factors are transmission-constrained. Their access to added transmission lines could enable them to sell electric power at rates against which wind and solar electricity-generated power cannot compete. The potential implications of this for the expansion of renewable electricity and for U.S., European, and other energy markets are discussed. For example, the EU-proposed “Desertec” initiative requires building extensive transmission for renewable energy electricity generated in North Africa and the Middle East to northern Europe.
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