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DOE to Award $60M to Support Transmission Planning for US Interconnection Networks

The US Department of Energy (DOE) awarded selections for $60 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support transmission planning for the country’s three interconnection transmission networks. The six awards will promote collaborative long-term analysis and planning for the Eastern, Western and Texas electricity interconnections, which will help states, utilities, grid operators, and others prepare for future growth in energy demand, renewable energy sources, and Smart Grid technologies.

North American Interconnections. Click to enlarge.

The DOE said that this represents the first-ever effort to take a collaborative, comprehensive look across each of the three transmission interconnections.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu also joined with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies to coordinate efforts related to interconnection-level electric transmission planning.

DOE will lead electricity-related research and development activities, including research and demonstrations for hardware and software technologies that help operate the country’s transmission networks. FERC will continue to oversee electricity reliability standards nationally and will enforce regulations to ensure that all transmission planning happens in an open, transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

The transmission infrastructure in the continental United States is separated into three distinct electrical networks, or “interconnections”: the Eastern, Western, and Texas interconnections. Portions of the Eastern and Western interconnections also extend into Canada and Mexico. Within each interconnection, the addition of new electricity supply sources and the development of transmission needed to deliver electricity to consumers requires careful coordination to maintain the grid’s reliability while limiting costs and environmental impacts.

The transmission planning supported through the awards will develop an open, transparent, and collaborative process that will involve participants from industry, federal, state and local government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations. This will include discussions among states within an interconnection on how best to meet the region’s electricity supply needs, along with collaboration among industry and government agencies from Canada and Mexico.

As a result of these planning efforts, each of the awardees will produce long-term resource and transmission planning studies in 2011, with updated documents in 2013. The knowledge and perspective gained from this work will inform policy and regulatory decisions in the years to come and provide critical information to electricity industry planners, states and others to develop a modernized, low-carbon electricity system.

The awards are divided into two topic areas: funding for transmission planners and funding for state agencies. Awards under the first topic area will fund transmission planners’ work with stakeholder organizations within an interconnection to project options for alternative electricity supplies and the associated transmission requirements. The second group of awards will go to state agencies or groups of agencies to develop coordinated interconnection priorities and planning processes.

The following organizations have been selected for awards:

Eastern Interconnection

  • Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative - $16 million
  • Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council - $14 million

Western Interconnection

  • Western Electricity Coordinating Council - $14.5 million
  • Western Governors’ Association - $12 million

Texas Interconnection

  • Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) - $2.5 million
  • Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for work with Texas government agencies - $1 million



This is a good investment but it will not do nearly enough. Our local electricity supplier spent over $3+B in the last 5 years to improve the local transmission lines and inter-connections to share power with USA States and neighbouring provinces. That is just part of the investment required. Another $10+B will be used, to modernize, toughen and extend the network in the next 10 years. Another $3+B will be required to interconnect with 2000 to 4000 new wind turbines.

Another problem to solve is human mistakes. An engineer push the wrong button the other day and inadvertently cut two major hydro plants from the network. Some 250 000 customers were without electricity for a few hours before the network could be properly re-energized. Future control systems have to be more human proof.


Maintenance of ultra long transmission lines:

When transmission lines go over many 1000 Km of forest land, cutting tall trees cost many $$ million every year.

A new aggresive shrub, that grows to 2 M only, completely stops the growth of any-all trees, when planted under the transmission line, but does not invade the neighbouring forest. Tests (on 20 Km in various places) were very conclusive. One has to be careful so that this aggressive shrub does not invade neighbouring farm lands. In that case, you may have to call agent orange to the rescue.


Yeah this is an area of concern. These investments in really long transmission lines cost greatly in the ecology of open spaces. they also require maintenance, security, etc.

This is where removing residences from the grid baseload would be very smart. Lower eco-impacts. Security, local distributed energy, lower grid expansion and costs - and introduce a brand new industry similar to building HVAC units.

There's unnecessary resistance to this concept which WILL be introduced in a disruptive way IF that resistance does not dissipate.


I favor more distributed generation. Long transmission lines are a thing of the past. With SOFC CCHP buildings and homes can heat, cool and generate power closer to the point of use. This reduces transmission loses and the ugly overhead towers stretching 100s of miles through scenic territory. Put PV and solar thermal panels on the roof and the existing lines will have enough capacity for many decades to come. Combine all of this with more efficient appliances, televisions and computers to make a great energy usage reduction program nation wide.


From practical horticultural experience and observation on this matter, I can say for sure that climax communities of the desired size can be cultivated in such situations.
The land could be leased to interested farmer/ hort people and the best use as either firebreak, grazing, annual or biomass crop regimes implemented.

They should be productive especially if supported by long favourable leases.

It seems ridiculous to scorch more land when the productive potential is there in the win win low fruit category.


For centuries, energy, in the form of wood, coal, whale oil, fossil fuel etc was transported to every house, cabin or hut for domestic use.

NG came around and for convenience was piped in from a centralized locations.

Electricity came in and for convenience was cabled in from central generating stations. The reason for central electric generating plants was the very low cost of less than $0.01/Kwh from large hydro plants and about $0.02/Kwh from large cold fired power plants.

To this date, nobody has been able to come close to those very low prices with domestically produced electricity. You could put up your own wind turbine + batteries + inverters and the real cost would be more than $0.20/Kwh. You could put up your own solar panels + batteries + inverters and the real cost would be more than $0.30/Kwh.

It will take decades before domestic wind or solar energy can compete with large hydro plants, even if they are 1000+ miles away.


This is why I favor a carbon tax. A 10% tax on coal, oil and natural gas would provide $100 billion dollars per year for wind turbines, solar farms, geothermal plants and bio refineries. We could HOPE the market system provides what the country needs or we could PROVIDE with the country needs for sure.

Private sector takes care of the private sector, their profits are all that matter and the country is not even considered. We are suppose to get some public good out of collective corporate greed, but I don't see any. Exxon and Chevron can put all the feel good ads on TV that they want, but I would rather have that money go into renewable energy.



Well located large wind turbine farms, large sun power farms and large geothermal facilities can produce electricity around $0.10/Kwh. However, wind and sun are intermittent power sources and have to be coupled with other energy sources to take over during low wind and/or low or no sun periods.

Alternatively, huge storage bateries + inverters could be used but their current high price would about double the total power cost.

Where hydro power is available in very large quantity, it could easily provide back up power on demand. Unused water would stay in the reservoirs for future use. That is currently being done by our electricity supplier, to introduce wind energy (4,000 to 8,000 mega-watt) with the existing 40,000+ mega-watt of hyddro power. With improved power network, this type of dual energy sources could be fine tuned to 50%-50%.


Pumped hydro and CAES are proven cost effective methods for storing energy. The discussion seems to go in the direction of "we can't do it all with this, so forget it". Wind, solar, geothermal can all be used with renewable methane combined cycle power plants. We use more power during the day and even more in the summer. This combination can replace many of the 600 coal fired power plants now in operation.


** The Combined Power Plant optimally combines the advantages of various renewable energy sources. Wind turbines and solar modules help generate electricity in accordance with how much wind and sun is available. Biogas and hydropower are used to make up the difference: they are converted into electricity as needed in order to balance out short-term fluctuations, or are temporarily stored. Technically, there is nothing preventing us from 100 per cent provision with renewables. **

Improving thermal performance of buildings will not only reduce consumption of electricity and natural gas put will also help cut peak loads usually due to seasonal heating and cooling.

HVDC can be used to interlink grids and link areas of good wind and solar resource.

Henry Gibson

Massive very high voltage direct current cables can be buried in motorway right of ways and underneath many other roads. They would take no extra space.

The large amounts of power available at large rivers was the incentive for long alternating current transmission lines. High power semiconductors now allow high voltage underground and undersea transmission of power. A cable was completed about two years ago from Norway to Holland underneath the North Sea. ..HG..

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