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Biden Administration Announces Steps Aimed to Bolster US Grid Capacity

Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

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Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

On Tuesday of this week, the Biden Administration announced the Federal-State Modern Grid Deployment Initiative along with commitments from 21 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin. The intent is to provide federal funding to participating states to make faster fixes and improvements to the grid to significantly increase overall electrical transmission capacity. The announcement comes as large-scale power outages across the South and Midwest in the past few weeks have come as a reminder that much of the grid is outdated and is facing increased pressure on the aging infrastructure.

            The initiative is a federal and state partnership in which the federal government will provide technical assistance and loans to build more transmission lines. In return, participating states will encourage legislatures and governors to pass policies enhancing the grid and using new equipment that can carry more electricity. The overall goal of the effort will be to upgrade 100,000 miles of existing transmission lines so they can carry more power using reconductoring. In this process, newer higher voltage power lines are swapped out on existing towers from older lower transmission lines.

            The effectiveness of this initiative will likely be limited by the fact that less than half the states in the country are participating, and the initiative appears only focused on transmission, not generation. While transmission is an important element of grid improvement, it is also key that significant investments are made in non-intermittent power generation sources such as natural gas-fired power generation and our added to the grid. These stable power sources, in conjunction with improved transmission infrastructure, will be vital in ensuring that the grid continues to keep up with demand from residential and commercial growth in the United States. Additionally, this executive action will be limited by the fact that Congress has still been unable to agree on a permitting reform package that could speed up permitting times that are significantly holding up the build-out of new power generation, gas pipelines and other critical infrastructure that is vital to maintaining our energy systems. Permitting reform is critical to the success of the American energy system.

Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.



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