Strong Federal Role Needed To Break Renewable Energy Grid-LockStrong Federal Role Needed To Break Renewable Energy Grid-Lock
Former Gov. George Pataki delivered perhaps the most powerful assessment of the move to rebuild the national electricity grid yesterday when he called for a greater federal role in the permitting process. This was the same Pataki who had championed deregulation in New York state -- and later defended deregulation after the <a href="https://reports.energy.gov/BlackoutFinal-Web.pdf">huge 2003 blackout of the Northeast</a>.
February 24, 2009
Former Gov. George Pataki delivered perhaps the most powerful assessment of the move to rebuild the national electricity grid yesterday when he called for a greater federal role in the permitting process. This was the same Pataki who had championed deregulation in New York state -- and later defended deregulation after the huge 2003 blackout of the Northeast.Permitting, or "siting," has been identified by many as one of the largest of many obstacles in rebuilding and extending the national electricity grid to accommodate renewable energy sources wherever they can be tapped.
Pataki, speaking at the National Clean Energy Summit, notes: "It takes years. It takes hundreds of millions of dollars, and, at best, the outcome is uncertain. So, I'm going to get in a little bit of trouble in some quarters by agreeing with Majority Leader Reid that the federal government has a critical role in this regard. Right now you have to get local approval, state approval. But what we need is a federal permitting process. Not one that's authoritarian but one that works in partnership with the states." More to the point, states need to see the benefit of connecting to this national electricity highway, much as they did in the days of federal highway building projects. "Let me tell you after 12 years as governor, you try to run a wire through someone's backyard and that becomes" a huge obstacle. When it came to federal highway building, states wanted on- and off-ramps. They saw the benefits to commerce and transportation. It won't be as easy when it comes to renewable electricity, however. For that, states need to see what benefits await them, says Pataki. The Center for American Progress, which was largely responsible for yesterday's gathering, states in a just-released position paper, Wired for Progress: Building a National Clean-Energy Smart Grid: "Certification and siting done on a one-stop basis for new renewable transmission projects so that projects identified in a multistate clean-energy planning process can receive consolidated review and approval, rather than relying on a system where multiple unconnected permitting agencies (in an uncoordinated process that must cross many jurisdictions) are expected to develop long-distance transmission lines as a new national priority." Siting is just one obstacle. Another huge one is a lack of national standards for high-speed electrical switching equipment, says Energy Secretary and Nobel laureate Steven Chu. Such a standard is necessary to flow power and trade information across regions. "The American industry does not have a standard," says Chu. "We need to move with a sense of urgency." Without it, we have gridlock. Says Pataki, "If it's left to a state-by-state basis, for all the money, for all the technology, [the smart grid] is not going to happen."
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