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Wind, Other New Generation Creating Crucial Need for Transmission: NERC Report

October 28, 2008

The need for transmission infrastructure and the impact of environmental initiatives are among the most important issues in the area of electric reliability in North America over the coming 10 years, with new generation projected to significantly outpace new transmission development, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) said in its 2008 Long-Term Reliability Assessment.

A significant chunk of that new generation will come from a projected 750% growth in proposed wind projects by 2017. The October 23 report from NERC—which oversees North America’s bulk power system, developing and enforcing reliability standar ds—underscores how the wind industry and broader electric industry share the fundamental understanding of the tremendous need for the nation’s aging transmission infrastructure to be modernized and strengthened.

As state and provincial environmental regulations begin to come into effect, certain regions of North America, such as Texas, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Western states and Canadian provinces, are projecting large additions of wind capacity over the next ten years, the report notes. Though only approximately 23,000 MW of the total 145,000 MW is projected to be available on peak, these proposed additions, if developed, would help to diversify the fuel mix in those areas and provide needed new energy resources, the report states.

“We need more transmission resources to maintain reliability and achieve environmental goals,” said Rick Sergel, president and CEO of NERC. “Transmission lines are the critical link between new generation and customers, yet we continue to see transmission development lag behind generation additions. Faster siting, permitting, and construction of transmission resources will be vital to keeping the lights on in the coming years.”

One area that will counter at least some of the burgeoning need for capacity is demand response and energy efficiency. According to the report, demand response is expected to offset nearly 80% of U.S. peak demand growth in 2016. Nearly 34,000 MW of demand response and 11,000 MW of energy efficiency are projected to be in place across North America by 2016, reducing total demand by 3.3%. Such resources provide critical reliability services, increasing the operational flexibility of the grid and complementing the addition of new intermittent generation resources such as wind and solar energy, the report notes.

Reference: The 2008 Long-Term Reliability Assessment.