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Did you know the United States’ electric grid has a nearly failing C- grade? It’s no surprise. In fact, some parts of our electric transmission grid are 100 years old, built for a very different power system.
That’s why upgrading and expanding America’s transmission system is critical to reaching our country’s full energy potential and ensuring continued electricity reliability, especially in the face of greater stresses caused by climate change.
But what is transmission? Think of transmission as the superhighway for efficiently transporting electricity from where it is produced to where we use it. It serves our country by connecting Americans to a diverse portfolio of energy sources and allows us to access the strongest natural renewable energy resources, like wind and solar, and deliver it cheaply to our homes and businesses. This network helps ensure the continued supply of affordable, reliable electricity, so you never have to think when you flip the light switch.
In February, the importance of transmission was on full display when much of the central U.S. experienced a major cold snap. Most states rode out the storm with minimal power disruptions because interregional transmission lines allowed them to import electricity from neighboring regions. The notable exception was Texas, which chose not to connect its grid to the larger network and therefore didn’t reap its benefits. The state experienced major power failures causing loss of life and significant economic damage.
That is why major transmission investments must be included in the federal infrastructure package being debated in Washington, D.C.
Investments in the electric grid create massive benefits for their host communities and the country as a whole:
These benefits are more than just an abstract concept. Major new transmission projects to connect population centers with low-cost wind and solar energy are already promising massive tangible benefits for their states.
For example, take the innovative SOO Green Line, a high-voltage transmission line that will carry clean electricity across the Upper Midwest. The SOO Line will generate over $2.2 billion in economic activity while creating thousands of temporary and permanent jobs. Communities along the route stand to benefit from more than $1.5 billion of induced renewable energy investment, bringing new tax revenue and land lease payments. And by opening up access to some of America’s strongest renewable energy resources, the SOO Line will spur cleaner energy investments that will help reduce air pollution, including CO2 emissions.
Travel south through the Sun Belt, and you’ll come across the planned SunZia transmission line, which promises to connect over 1 million households to affordable clean energy. The project will create thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs while providing landowners and ranchers with a new source of income to support their families. Local communities will also benefit from an increase in tax revenue. This transmission line allows the Desert Southwest to tap strong wind energy resources, which will help the region save over 14 million gallons of water and reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 18.5 million tons compared to traditional thermal power plants.
Improving America’s transmission infrastructure is critical to our electric system’s reliability and necessary to ensure the U.S. economy remains competitive in the 21st-century. It is also clear that without a massive investment in our electricity superhighways, we are far less likely to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals. That’s why Congress must include policies that will upgrade and expand U.S. interregional transmission build-out in its infrastructure package later this year.
In the American Jobs Plan, laid out by President Biden, transmission infrastructure is a core component of successfully transitioning to renewable energy. Clean Power for America supports investing in our nation’s transmission—it will reduce costs, pay for itself 2-3 times over, and ensure the lights stay on!