The New York Times has noticed that the current electricity grid is not sufficient for all the wind and solar energy that the Biden administration thinks it should be carrying. Write Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer:
“The climate stakes are high. Last year, Congress approved hundreds of billions of dollars for solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and other technologies to tackle global warming. But if the United States can’t build new transmission at a faster pace, roughly 80 percent of the emissions reductions expected from that bill might not happen, researchers at the Princeton-led REPEAT Project found.”
Okay, but since the Times is ideologically committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions the problem is not the amount of unreliable solar and wind we are adding or the proposed massive increase in electric charging stations. Rather, it’s getting enough transmission capacity to allow all these new projects to be built.
And how to do that? More planning. Especially federal planning. The Times continues:
“There are enormous challenges to building that much transmission, including convoluted permitting processes and potential opposition from local communities. But the problems start with planning—or rather, a lack of planning.
“There is no single entity in charge of organizing the grid, the way the federal government oversaw the development of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and ‘60s. The electric system was cobbled together over a century by thousands of independent utilities building smaller-scale grids to carry power from large coal, nuclear or gas plants to nearby customers.
Wait a minute! Aren’t the “convoluting permitting processes” mostly federal? Isn’t that planning? And isn’t that a big problem? Congress has been struggling to relax the permitting processes—Joe Manchin gave away a lot to get such streamlining and then it didn’t happen.
To be fair, there are state and local obstacles to big projects. And thank goodness—one of them is resistance to local governments’ right to eminent domain, an authority that should be used sparingly.
And maybe communities should have a right to keep out big ugly projects. Robert Bryce keeps a list of communities that have successfully opposed wind and solar projects.
“You won’t read about this in The New York Times or The New Yorker, but 2022 was a record year for the number of solar energy projects that were rejected by rural communities in the United States,” he writes. There were 80 in 2022.
Maybe these local NIMBYs will save us from running out of electric grid capacity.
HT to Judith Curry for finding the NYT article.
Image above by Scott from Pixabay.