Nora Mead Brownell, a former FERC commissioner and current head of PG&E, was interviewed by Electrek to discuss how the United States can quickly and effectively enhance its system to accommodate the influx of new renewable energy projects. She stated the following.
The grid is receiving attention, but not for the reasons it should. Why are power providers unable to manage the switch to renewable energy?
They can, says Nora Mead Brownell. But a little creativity will be needed.. The majority of the transmission equipment in use today was constructed between 40 and 80 decades ago, and a large portion of it is still functioning well beyond its engineering and service constraints. At present, operators don’t check their power lines for factors like how much a line is bowing or swinging or outside temperature that could impair its capacity for carrying. In actuality, just 1% of electricity cables are even remotely tracked, which is an issue.
How is that lag corrected? You spoke of creativity
N. Mead Brownell” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) overwhelmingly approved Order 881 in 2021, requiring transmission companies to employ the Ambient Adjusting Rating (AAR) system for more precise transmission line rating. When completely put into effect, AAR should reduce the restriction of solar and wind energy while helping to boost the capacity of those outdated power lines. Although Order 881 is a positive first step towards modernising the electrical grid and boosting its capacity for carrying power, it is only a small, approximately three-year-ahead move. It is insufficient.
So, what must take place?
N. Mead Brownell: So, we must install more power lines. The United States Department of Power estimates that in order to meet the demand of the energy transition, we must create around 47,000 miles of lines. If we believe that will occur in time to meet climate targets, however, we are fantasising. Transmission projects are costly, encounter strong local disagreement, and are incredibly difficult to obtain permits for.
FERC must to spring into action once more and order companies to use flexible line ratings if we are to have any chance of decarbonizing the electrical grid by 2030. DLRs give utilities access to real-time data from modern sensors that show field conditions that have an impact on transmission capacity. With this knowledge, utilities can comfortably exceed – occasionally even significantly exceed – the bounds of conventional “guesstimates” in order to maximise system capacity, bring those renewable energy projects back on the internet, and, perhaps, release some of the 2-terawatt interconnect backlog.
Do utilities now use DLRs?
Yes, says Nora Mead Brownell. In fact, rural New York state now has the largest DLR project in the US thanks to the National Grid. Additionally, it is used by a few of the biggest companies in the globe, including Tennessee Valley Authority, Dominion Energies, Xcel Energies, and Avangrid. The Act to Reduce Inflation is expected to build a significant amount of wind and solar power, therefore integrating technology must go much more quickly.
Why then doesn’t it proceed more quickly? How can people do to change the world as a whole?
N. Mead Brownell: The present economic framework is in favour of adding new electricity lines, which is yet another thing we must accomplish. However, we must provide companies with more incentives to develop with grid-enhancing technology as DLR.
Recent FERC regulation proposals would significantly speed up the adoption of the technology, and companies are being encouraged to utilise DLR by a number of government organisations, including the NYSERDA in New York. In fact, the Empire State is perhaps leading the way in integrating the technology and expanding its grid to accommodate sources of clean energy.
People must get in touch with their local political authorities and request that they take immediately on this crucial subject.