When thinking about improving electricity transmission, keep these concepts in mind:
• Transmission on the national scale. According to a report by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, DC-based think tank, “The conflict over federal versus state jurisdiction over new transmission projects and authority over siting decisions ... is proving to be politically contentious and time-consuming. ... There is still much to be done to facilitate work between federal and state authorities to determine new transmission corridors.”
• Speaking of streamlining, the same report notes the bureaucratic nightmare that is green-energy development. “A wind farm proposal, for example, could fall to any one of eight federal agencies, but there is no streamlined process for coordinated action.” If renewable energy is going to be a cornerstone of our new economy, the system has to be structured better.
• We need better coordination among regional players, and better public education about who benefits from power-grid updates. In response to a question about who should pay to transmit Maine-produced power to, say, customers in Connecticut, Maine & Maritimes Corporation CEO Brent Boyles points out that the end users and producers share the cost of other products traded similarly. “Some people have a hard time viewing electricity as a commodity,” he says. We benefit economically from potatoes we grow here and sell elsewhere, he says — “why is electricity any different than that?”
• Keep an eye out for studies — local, regional, and national — about how to better integrate wind power into the grid. (The Portland Phoenix will likely report more on this soon.) There are questions about wind-power reliability — and if “dirty energy” needs to be kept at-the-ready as backup, what’s the point of developing this source of clean energy in the first place?
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