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FERC issues guidelines on new transmission line construction

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, July 22, 2011

Industry analysts have long asserted that the U.S. power supply network is in need of updates as the population grows. According to a published report, federal regulators unveiled a plan this week that will help power providers to construct much-needed new transmission lines.

The New York Times reports that the federal government said this week it has created a preliminary plan for the ongoing development of critical infrastructures in the U.S. Such systems are quickly aging and as states have enacted legislation requiring power providers to derive an ever-increasing percentage of their energy from renewable sources, a need has emerged for improvements in transmission lines.

According to industry experts, while solar and wind power systems have become more popular over the past decade they are often constructed in regions that are removed from densely populated areas. For example, in states like California a large number of solar panel systems have been constructed in desert areas. Wind turbine farms similarly are more effective when built in mountaintop regions.

The rise in the number of clean energy systems has created a need to construct new transmission lines capable of transporting the power. Power providers have been at odds over the past few years with state lawmakers, butting heads over who exactly should foot the bill for the new transmission lines and where they will be built.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) officials said on Thursday that its new guideline regarding the development of new transmission lines was meant to allay concerns - especially among power providers - of how to pay for the essential power lines.

The new regulations are intended to prompt grid operators to work together to develop transmission lines that cross state borders and various jurisdictions. What's more, FERC officials affirmed that they had developed a system of how to determine which consumers will pay for the construction work that is based on who benefits from the lines.

Still, some critics charged that the new rules are unfair to consumers because it can be exceedingly difficult to ascertain who benefits from new transmission lines. Backers of the new guidelines, however, said they were pleased that FERC stepped in to ensure that smart grid development continues.

"Strengthening and expanding the system for reliable integration of these resources will require significant investment in transmission," FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. "The existing transmission system was not built to accommodate this shifting generation fleet."

The Obama Administration introduced in June its plan to develop the smart grid and critical infrastructure protection (CIP) measures in the U.S. 

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