Meeting Renewable Energy Targets in the West at Least Cost: The Integration Challege
New report released June 2012
In 2000 and 2001 the West experienced drammatic price increases for energy and rolling brownouts. Western Governors recognized the need to cooperate regionally to ensure the region has adequate and affordable energy supplies to ensure continued economic growth and quality of life. They also realized the need to diversify the energy sources the West relied on to generate electricity and fuel its vehicles.
Governors have been working together - and with industry and other stakeholders - since 2000 to ensure western businesses and consumers have the energy they need now and well into the future. Below is information Governors asked WGA to develop, in consultation with stakeholders, to improve transmission of energy. For information on the Governors' efforts on energy demand and energy generation click here.
Governors and public utility commissioners within the Western Interconnection share the goal of greater development and use of renewable energy resources and expansion of the existing transmission grid.
The Western Governors’ Association, Western Interstate Energy Board and Western Electricity Coordinating Council are working with diverse stakeholders through the Regional Transmission Expansion Project (RTEP) to analyze transmission requirements under a broad range of alternative energy futures. the joint effort will develop long-term, interconnection-wide transmission expansion plans. Information on wildlife sensitivities and water availability is being incorporated for the first time in transmission planning to help developers minimize impacts of potential future energy generation on already limited water resources, wildlife and other important land uses.
Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, this project is already producing recommendations and new information to help policymakers and industry ensure needed new transmission lines are sited, reviewed, and constructed in an efficient and effective manner.
The current effort builds upon stakeholder recommendations made as part of the Western Renewable Energy Zones initiative in 2008. A report that included a map of high quality, developable renewable resource areas was completed in 2009. Following is a short description of the additional work curently underway.
Identifying Best Renewable Generation Areas
The Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) interviewed a number of utilities, PUC commissioners and state energy offices to compile their interest in renewable energy resources in remote areas of the West. The resulting report presents interviewee responses. The Executive Summary discusses the key findings and suggests recommendations for consideration by states, provinces and regional bodies.
Improving Permitting of New Transmission
WGA has been actively engaged with the federal Interagency Rapid Response Transmission Team (RRTT) to coordinate state and federal siting and permitting requirements for new transmission lines. Draft recommendations were formulated with the assistance of siting experts and conversations with state siting agencies and developers. These recommendations targeted specific process management and policy issues aimed at shortening the length of time to site and permit without affecting the integrity of the process.
In April 2012, WGA hosted a State Siting Workshop to review the recommendations and rank those items based on a group discussion. The draft recommendations were condensed into a short action plan for continued work and collaboration with the federal RRTT team. The governors authorized the creation of a State Siting Task Force to address process improvements and information sharing between the western states, The Task Force will meet periodically to review transmission line updates, key events and promoting a forum to exchange process improvements.
Integrated Variable Renewable Energy Generation into the Grid
The Western Governors' Association commissioned this report to explore ways to reduce costs to the region's electricity consumers for integrating wind and solar, identify barriers to adopting these measures and recommend possible state actions. Prepared by Regulatory Assistance Project for Western Governors' Association. The preparation of this report was financed in part by funds provided by The Energy Foundation. The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability supported the participation of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Protecting Crucial Habitat and Wildlife Corridors
Western Governors recognized that siting and building new transmission lines could impact critical wildlife habitat and migration corridors. they directed their Western Governors’ Wildlife Council to develop a useful and consistent source of mapped biological information throughout the West. When complete in 2013, the West-wide Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool will be an easily accessible online system of maps displaying crucial wildlife habitat and corridors across the West.
Efforts over the next two years will provide publicly-available, regionally-compatible crucial habitat and corridor information in the West-wide CHAT by 2013. All the while, WGWC will continue to support the development of state-specific CHATs in individual states, as desired. Find more information about CHAT development and WGWC meetings and activities on the Wildlife Corridors and Crucial Habitat webpage.
Developing Options for Mix of Generation and Demand Response to Meet Future Needs
Western states and provinces are working together to develop information on the range of options for generating the energy needed in the region twenty years from now. This knowledhe will help policymakers and planners decide the best way to achieve adequate, diverse, affordable and environmentally sensitive energy sources for economic growth and quality of life. Factors being integrated in the planning models include:
- Future demand, including potential demand from plug-in vehicles
- Demand reduction options
- Currently proposed transmission projects
- Economic and environmental implications, including greenhouse gas impacts from the electricity sector and related sectors, such as transportation
- Water and wildlife constraints
- Reliability and security needs
- State and consumer interests
- Effective integration of variable generation
Protecting Water Supplies
Water is a precious and limited resource, particularly in the western United States. Western Governors recognize the need to better understand the impacts of new energy generation choices on water availability. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy, by 2030, "(water) consumption by the electricity sector alone could equal the entire country’s 1995 domestic water consumption."
WGA is working with state water managers, energy offices, and regulators as well as other agencies authorities with responsibility for water supply management and electricity production to develop a better understanding of the impacts of our energy choices on water. The information generated by this task will be important in the development and evaluation of scenarios generated under Topic A to ensure that the energy development scenarios can be accommodated within existing and future water resource constraints in the West. Specifically, WGA is:
- Incorporating existing water supply assessments in Western states into a decision support framework for integrated energy-water planning
- Evaluating electricity generation scenarios and their implications for water supply as part of Topic A
- Developing recommendations on policies and/or programs to facilitate sustainable energy development in the context of economy-wide water availability
Renewable Energy Transmission Roadmap
To assist in navigating the renewable energy development process, the Western Governors' Association prepared a "roadmap" of the steps an energy project, whether generation or transmission, typically takes from concept to construction. The roadmap highlights key information compiled from existing national, regional, and state studies, and points to sources of information that contain additional details. It identifies key issues that typically face energy development projects in the Western U.S. and some strategies for addressing challenges that may arise along the way.
Financing Electricity Transmission Expansion in the West
After the energy crisis of 2000-2001 Governors asked the industry to identify obstacles to building new transmission lines. Industry prepared two reports: