Smart Grid Energy Security Strategy What If

As required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, US DOE must do a study of electric transmission congestion every three years. The first Congestion Study was released in August 2006 and led to designation of two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETC) in the Northeast and Southwest US. It was a good start, but now that Federal spending is no impediment we can do better in this upcoming second round.

US DOE is now preparing for the 2009 Congestion Study to be submitted to Congress by August 8, 2009, and will hold a Technical Workshop on March 25-26, 2009 to receive input from subject matter experts on studies of future transmission projections in the Western and Eastern Interconnections.

No fee to attend, but pre-registration is requested. More information and registration can be found here.

Hey, if the Federal government can print money with abandon, I can certainly print “ideas” the same way.  So this is my ‘modest proposal’ to US DOE  for creating a genuine transformation of the electricity markets into a smart grid strategy for the 21st century. What if we built a diamond shaped interstate electric transmission corridor that connected Alberta, California, Texas and Chicago.

What could you do with such game changing strategy?

Imagine the froth and fury if US DOE decided to study the feasibility of creating such a high capacity bulk transmission backbone system (think: “interstate electric highway system”) designed to integrate the three major electric power grids (WECC, ERCOT and Eastern Interconnect) into one competitive North American power market using smart grid technologies to achieve the following public purposes:

  1. Expand Renewable Wind Power Access for Consumers. The first Congestion Plan designated a Southwest US corridor to bring solar power to market. This second plan should focus on achieving the maximum feasible access for wind generation from West Texas and Wyoming because the wind does not always blow where we need it most.
  2. Get More Unconventional Gas to Market! The second part of this strategy would expand natural gas production from unconventional gas sources in the US and Canadian Rockies. Growth in unconventional gas has been a good news story for the US and further production can feed high efficiency gas combined cycle power plants sending the cheaper, cleaner electric power to markets as a substitute for new coal plants. Pipelines would take gas to markets for winter heating, summer peaking and energy security.
  3. Use Nuclear Power for Shale Oil and Tar Sands Development. The strategy would build high capacity power transmission lines between Alberta and the WECC and Eastern Interconnect to achieve two goals: Use nuclear power to provide the energy required to support and sustain the productive expansion of the shale oil and tar sands oil production in Alberta and provide effective market access for the excess power generation created from those nuclear power plants to serve domestic US and Canadian markets.
  4. Enhance Water Development and Security. Expanded access to renewable energy is a key component and natural partner for solving the Nation’s looming problem of water security and reliability. Using cleantech strategies for combining renewable energy with desalination of brackish water at critical locations in the West, we have in our grasp the solutions for the most vexing environmental problems facing the country. The export of fresh water from the San Francisco Bay Delta is undermining the habitat and survival of salmon and other native fisheries. The limitation on export is undermining California’s economy and future. At the same time, salt water intrusion seeping in to the aquifers of the San Joaquin Valley threatens California’s water supply and billion dollar agribusiness industry. Then there is the small matter of climate change and its long term effect on snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, drought and related issues. Energy security and water security go hand in hand.
  5. Competition for ISO’s from National Merchant Transmission Operators. This interstate diamond grid strategy facilitates a profitable market for merchant transmission operators creating the scale needed and profit potential to encourage investment. By encouraging competition with the independent system operators and local utilities consumers benefit from more choice in selling their product into local, regional or continental markets. Similarly, merchant power generators gain wider access to markets far distant from their plants and a secondary market for exchanges and trading would effectively enforce market discipline and efficiency.
  6. Unlock Access to Customers with Start Smart Grid Meters and Services. With a backbone bulk transmission system in place that facilitates wholesale competition, the expanded use of real-time metering and pricing can provide a expanding array of products and services for end use consumers and make a true market for efficiency, emissions reduction and services to remake the competitive retail energy marketplace. 

What if? Now that would be change we can REALLY believe in!