DOE Study Could Aid Transmission Projects


U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) analysts have identified two geographic areas facing critical electricity-transmission congestion problems, which could aid efforts to build new transmission lines in one of those areas. San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) is hoping to construct a $1.3 billion transmission line to service Southern California, and both proponents and opponents see the new report as aiding these plans.

The National Electric Transmission Study was conducted under the requirements of the Federal Power Act, an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Researchers identified Southern California, along with the Atlantic coastal area stretching from New York south through Northern Virginia, as "critical congestion areas." The study describes these as "…areas of the country where it is critically important to remedy existing or growing congestion problems…"

Report findings are now under review, following a two-month comment period. Under provisions of the amendment authorizing this every-three-years study, DOE regulators can use the findings to designate "national interest electric transmission corridors," where easing congestion -- either through new transmission lines or new generating capacity closer to where it is consumed -- is a priority.

SDG&E is facing local opposition to its proposed 150-mile Sunrise Powerlink transmission line and has petitioned the DOE to name San Diego County a national corridor.

The study also identifies four areas where congestion problems are approaching critical status, including New England, the Phoenix-Tucson area, the Seattle-Portland area and the San Francisco Bay area.

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