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Climate

Building Biden’s Much-Needed Power Lines For Green Energy Is Flat Or Declining

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Proponents of the much-hyped “energy transition” frequently claim that rapid decarbonization of the electricity sector can only be achieved with huge expansions of America’s high-voltage transmission grid.

We are told those expansions, totaling tens of thousands of miles of new capacity, must be completed in the next decade or two. [emphasis, links added]

Once this “grid modernization” has been completed, the new grid will deliver juice from vast areas of rural America that have been paved with solar panels and wind turbines to consumers living in distant cities.

In doing so, this new grid will deliver us to the Valhalla of “a net-zero economy with high electrification of transport, industry, and buildings by midcentury,” in which, presumably, everyone is using “clean” energy that’s too cheap to meter.

But there’s a terawatt-sized disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality.

America isn’t building anything close to the amount of high-voltage transmission capacity that the wind promoters, solar advocates, and spreadsheet jockeys claim is needed.

Indeed, the latest numbers from Atlanta-based C Three Group show that the amount of new high-voltage transmission (230kV and above) built annually in the United States is flat or declining.

Furthermore, the cost of building new high-voltage capacity and the components needed to expand the electric grid is skyrocketing. Meanwhile, all across rural America, transmission projects are facing fierce resistance from local communities and some Native American tribes. Let’s take a look.

In 2023, the U.S. added about 1,251 miles of new high-voltage capacity. That’s significantly below the average number of miles added to the U.S. power grid over the past two decades.

According to C Three, which has the best information on transmission trends in the U.S., about 1,677 miles of new high-voltage capacity was added annually to the grid between 2008 and 2023.

As seen in the graphic above, new capacity additions peaked in 2013, when Texas completed the CREZ lines, a system of HV lines spanning some 3,600 miles.

That $7 billion project is significant because the CREZ lines were all built intrastate. That is, they didn’t cross any state boundaries, which made the permitting process much easier. In addition, Texas has very little federal land and relatively few state parks.

Costs are also soaring. Before diving into those numbers, reviewing the hype is essential.

Last February, in the original “Out Of Transmission” published in these pages, I explained that billionaire investor John Doerr, who has funded a “sustainability” school at Stanford University and is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to climate activist groups, claims we need enormous expansions of the grid to accommodate more wind and solar projects.

In his 2021 book Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now, Doerr lays out what he calls “Key Emission Reduction Policies” including a clean electricity standard that could, in theory anyway, cut emissions by at least 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2040.

In what amounts to a footnote, Doerr explains that his modeling assumes “a doubling of the transmission system above business as usual.” But Doerr didn’t deign to explain how that doubling will happen.

In that same article, I explained that in 2022, the Biden administration announced a $2.5 billion fund to help bankroll the buildout of the nation’s high-voltage transmission system.

I cited a May 10, 2022, press release from the Department of Energy which said:

Independent estimates indicate that we need to expand electricity transmission systems by 60% by 2030, and may need to triple it by 2050 to meet the country’s increase in renewable generation and expanding electrification needs.”

Also, in February 2023, the Department of Energy released the “National Transmission Needs Study,” which claims the U.S. needs to build 47,300 gigawatt-miles of new power lines by 2035. The study didn’t define gigawatt-miles.

But it did say that “in future scenarios with moderate load but high clean energy assumptions,” the U.S. will need “a 57% growth in today’s transmission system.

Given that the current grid has about 240,000 miles of high-voltage capacity, that would require building roughly 136,000 miles of new capacity.

The same report says, “By 2040, new transmission deployment is projected between 100,000 and 185,000 GW-mi (115,000 GW-mi median), a doubling in size of today’s transmission system.

Read rest at Robert Bryce

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