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An Update on Transmission Law and Policy from WIRES

Third Quarter 2018

WIRES' new video "Spotlight On: The Electric Transmission Grid" continues to air on PBS stations through the remainder of 2018. The video is a basic introduction to the
value of the grid and features Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) talking about the vital importance of investment in the electric grid for our standard of living. Spotlight On, which is available for use as an educational too, also features WIRES Executive Director & Counsel Jim Hoecker who argues that preparing the grid for a more electrified and challenging 21st Century economy requires a greater sense of urgency among policy makers, regulators, investors and the public. "We need to start now [to reinforce the system to meet greater future demands for power], or it will be too late," says Hoecker.

Watch WIRES Spotlight On Transmission Grid video. 


Although the U.S. Department of Energy has focused in 2018 on ensuring the resilience of the electric system through out-of-market support for nuclear and coal generation, it may be turning a page this Autumn. On August 23, DOE announced it will conduct its statutory Electric Transmission Congestion Study, with public comments due on October 9.  WIRES' comments will be available on that date.  

DOE staff also announced its intention to conduct a workshop on electric transmission development and siting issues, to be held in Arlington, VA on November 15. The workshop will feature three panels:
  • Panel I: Are there unmet needs for additional long-distance, high-voltage transmission lines?
  • Panel II: Challenges to building transmission facilities where and when needed
  • Panel III: Are existing remedies adequate?
Contact David Meyer at DOE at 202-586-1411 with questions about the workshop and presenting at the workshop.  Register for the workshop. 

Through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), DOE staff also completed its analysis of the benefits of greater integration of the U.S. transmission system across market and interconnection boundaries. WIRES' Jim Hoecker keynoted the day-long TransGrid-X 2030 Symposium on July 16 at Iowa State University. The
symposium brought together academic, government, and industry experts to discuss the benefits and challenges of building out a 'seamless' East-West grid. The large-scale national power transmission planning study from NREL and the symposium generated heightened interest from renewable energy developers wishing to expand their market access. Analysis of several of the bi-directional grid overlay expansion scenarios in the study offered benefit-to-cost ratios of at least 2.5-3.5 to 1. If fully built, the hypothetical projects presented by the NREL Seam Study could represent a trillion-dollar economic event. The study makes a powerful argument for major new investment in interregional transmission in support of energy diversity and larger, more liquid power markets with big consumer cost benefits. DOE has yet to release the study officially.

Read the NREL Seam Study.
Read more about the TransGrid-X 2030 Symposium.
Read the highlights of a WIRES report on the economic benefits of transmission expansion.

WIRES Executive Director & Counsel Jim Hoecker testified on July 12 before the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources during a hearing on U.S. energy delivery infrastructure. Hoecker urged the Committee to support industry efforts to expand and upgrade the high-voltage electric transmission network to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century energy economy.

In his remarks, Hoecker stressed that significant investment is needed now to replace aging infrastructure, support and facilitate deployment of new technology, prepare for an increasingly electrified economy, bring greater resilience to the electric system, and reach new and diverse generating resources. Hoecker posed key questions to the Committee: "We must now move from understanding the importance of infrastructure to more difficult questions: Are we building the right facilities, and are we building them in a timely fashion? Are we responding in a proactive way to the potential of a more electrified economy and accommodating and incorporating new technologies? Finally, are we fostering efficient development in order to create net benefits for consumers?"

Hoecker with fellow former FERC Chairman Joe Kelliher at Senate ENR hearing.

Read Hoecker's Opening Statement.

Following a half-day of business meetings on July 30, WIRES members and guests enjoyed dinner on the Lakeside Terrace at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) CEO John Bear was the Keynote speaker at dinner, identifying the key drivers behind transmission investment at MISO integrating renewables, lowering energy costs, managing resource intermittency, improving reliability, and procedural challenges like long interconnection queues. Bear said that building a national electric grid bit by bit won't keep up with the demand from customers for cleaner, cheaper energy. "It will
MISO CEO John Bear with WIRES President Nina Plaushin.
be inefficient, unreliable and very expensive. We've got to get past the small cost allocation issues and get regional projects off the ground so customers can see lower costs and more benefits," said Bear.

The Policy Forum on July 31 kicked off with Keynote speaker Mark Gabriel, Administrator and CEO of WAPA, who stated that "[w]e have to be prepared for huge changes in how we are going to build and use transmission." The Forum included presentations and discussions about the increasingly electrified economy, including transportation, energy storage and other transmission complements, and transmission investment and incentives. 

View the WIRES 2018 Summer Meeting presentations.

WIRES was on the Hill in early July as a sponsor of EESI's 2018 Congressional Clean Energy EXPO and Policy Forum. The event is co-sponsored by the House Grid Innovation Caucus to showcase policy makers, agencies, hi-tech developers,
renewable energy advocates and others who support the build out of a robust, modern 21st Century grid. WIRES Policy Committee Chair Kevin Huyler from National Grid spoke on the 'Grid Resilience and Energy Infrastructure' panel about the importance for regulators and transmission developers to use resilience planning to uncover vulnerabilities in the system and plan out mitigation strategies.

Exhibitors in the EXPO, including WIRES, heard from Senators Dean Heller, Jack Reed, and Chris Van Hollen, along with Representatives Matt Cartwright, Paul Tonko, and Peter Welch about their vision for cleaner, more efficient and more reliable energy markets, and what they are doing to promote energy jobs and training, economic development and reliability projects in their states.

Watch excerpts from the EESI panels and speeches.

In partnership with The Brattle Group, WIRES has launched a study of the need for major investment in the high voltage grid to meet the energy demands of industry, including transportation and heating, that are becoming increasingly digitized and electrified. The study will include the effects of new technology developments that could easily result in electricity use by 2050 that is 40-50% greater than today. An inadequate or outdated grid could be a major hindrance to this more efficient and environmentally beneficial energy economy. Planning for such a grid and investing now is a major challenge in light of the magnitude of the investment, technological changes already underway, and traditional regulatory policies and practices. The finished report is expected in early 2019.

In addition, electrification was also the topic at a large West Coast conference in August presented by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The conference brought utilities together with other industries to study the push to electrify more of the U.S. economy. "The value of electricity 10 years from now and what it does to help all of us is going to be profound," said EPRI President Mike Howard.

Read more about Industrial Electrification.
Read about Brattle's electric transmission expertise.

In light of its growth and the growing complexity of electric grid issues, WIRES decided at its Summer Meeting to retain the support of Kellen Company, a global association management and communications company. Kellen helps build stronger not-for-profit organizations by freeing volunteer leaders from the constraints, inertia, and fear holding them back and then empowering them with the strategic thinking, best practices, technology, and top talent they need to achieve their goals. The Kellen team will support WIRES out of its Washington DC offices. It brings expertise in energy, domestic and global political and economic affairs, and communications to the table. The lead contact is Devin Sears, supported by Adair Douglas and Amory Brandon. We look forward to working with Kellen to make WIRES more effective in all its chosen missions.

Read more about Kellen.
For more events, see the WIRES calendar.

On September 12-14, WIRES was proud to support Infocast's 10th Annual Transmission Summit West in San Diego. WIRES Treasurer and American Transmission Company Associate General Counsel Brian Drumm (pictured)
moderated a panel on 'Incorporating DERs in Transmission Planning'. Drumm also joined Laura Manz from WIRES member firm Navigant on a panel discussing 'Transmission Investment and Finance'. This event was yet another opportunity for WIRES to talk with policymakers, utility and independent transmission executives about grid regionalization and seam issues, renewable integration, and storage and other transmission complements.
On October 2-3, WIRES President-Elect Brian Gemmell of National Grid will speak on the 'Resilience' panel at Gulf Coast Power Association 33rd Annual Fall Conference 
in Austin, TX. Resilience is a 'hot topic' in the electric utility industry, and the subject of ongoing regulatory inquiries, including at FERC. This panel will consider how investors, utilities, consumers, and regulators justify investments and measure their effectiveness for the low probability/high impact events that resilience investments are meant to protect against.

On October 24-25, WIRES will hold its 2018 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC to examine its policy priorities to advance before the 116th Congress. WIRES will also hold elections for Officers and new Directors for 2019. The Reception & Dinner on October 24 will be in the Mike Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol, with remarks from FERC Commissioner Rich Glick. The Policy Forum on October 25 at the National Press Club will feature panels and discussions on blockchain technology, transmission investment and Order 1000, and the grid as a national security issue.

Visit WIRES website for updates on the WIRES 2018 Annual Meeting.  

On November 5-6, WIRES Treasurer 
and American Transmission Company Associate General Counsel Brian Drumm  will speak at the EUCI "Transmission Expansion in the Midwest" conference in St. Louis.   Top executives from the area's RTOs, utilities, transmission developers, and state regulatory agencies will discuss and debate the most critical issues surrounding transmission expansion in the Midwest region, including planning, siting, and market structure issues alongside reliability, policy directives and economic interests. 

WI RES is the transmission industry's voice on key public policy issues at all levels of government.  During this time of change and challenge in Washington and across the country, your support for WIRES - and participation in its educational and advocacy programs - are essential to building America's electrical grid to meet both current and emerging challenges. 

If you're not already a member,  join  WIRES  by contacting Counsel and Executive Director, James Hoecker ( . Comments on this Newsletter or on any matter affecting electric transmission investment may be submitted to

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