In support of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, DOE’s Office of Electricity launched the Building a Better Grid Initiative to catalyze the nationwide development of new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines.
As one of the first steps, DOE is conducting the National Transmission Planning Study to identify transmission that will provide broad-scale benefits to electric customers; inform regional and interregional transmission planning processes; and identify interregional and national strategies to accelerate decarbonization while maintaining system reliability.
In partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, DOE will collaborate with industry stakeholders, communities, and regional and local governments to help identify pathways for necessary large-scale transmission system buildouts that meet regional and national interests.
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Resilience in the face of extreme weather events
Modernizing, hardening, and expanding the grid will enhance the resilience of the entire electric system while ensuring energy is available to customers where and when it is needed most. The increasing frequency of extreme weather events is disrupting the energy supply, which threatens the economy, puts public health and safety at risk, and can devastate affected communities all over the country. Aging infrastructure also leaves the grid increasingly vulnerable to attacks. Investment in transmission infrastructure can help protect the grid against supply disruptions (physical and cyber-attacks or climate-induced extreme weather events), reduce the impact of supply disruptions, and restore electricity more quickly when outages do occur.
Pathways to new, dependable, cleaner, and less expensive electricity
Expanding transmission capacity also improves reliability by creating stronger and more numerous energy delivery pathways. When one generation source is physically unavailable (or too costly), transmission enables delivery from other generation sources, making the system better equipped to meet delivery requirements under the broader range of real circumstances and stresses seen in recent years. This ensures consumers have access to a more dependable source of electricity to provide power to their homes, schools, and businesses.
Investments in transmission infrastructure are needed to both increase the capacity of existing lines and maximize the utilization of existing lines by employing grid enhancing technologies. Leveraging the existing infrastructure will reduce the need to build new long-distance, high-voltage transmission lines.
Investment in the grid will create demand for well-paying jobs and will drive innovation, commercialization, and deployment of energy technologies that can drive new businesses. Transmission already employs over one million people in the U.S., and an expansion will spur additional job creation and economic growth.
Investing and strengthening America’s electricity supply chains will help combat inflation and reduce costs for American families and businesses by protecting against global supply chain disruptions and backlogs that drive up prices. Investing in domestic manufacturing of transmission components will help to build a secure, resilient, and diverse energy sector industrial base that will establish America’s role as a global leader in clean energy manufacturing and innovation.
Moreover, investment in transmission will play a critical role in unlocking the deployment of cost-effective renewable energy generation, which is increasingly one of the least cost options in many parts of the country.
Decarbonizing the grid and addressing climate change
Transmission is critical to addressing the climate crisis through the decarbonization of the power sector, increasing transportation electrification, and the clean energy transition. A modern grid is particularly critical to making the most of the increasing renewable energy sources, as the most cost-effective renewable resources are often located in remote geographic areas, far from the areas with the biggest demand.
To address the imminent threat of climate change—and capitalize on the economic opportunity of doing so— The Administration established ambitious clean energy goals:
- a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035, and
- a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050.
Multiple pathways exist for the United States to meet the Administration’s clean energy goals, but all require upgrading and expanding the Nation's critical infrastructure, including deploying interstate high-voltage lines to connect multiple states, regions, and communities. Accelerating the shift toward a clean power sector requires investment in infrastructure and national planning to develop a holistic effort—across agencies, across different levels of government, and across the electricity sector.