Many Congressional Democrats and environmentalists want to increase renewable energy deployment four-fold by 2030 and double the rate at which transmission lines are being built, focusing on larger, interstate lines instead of small local lines. They want Congress to give FERC authority to permit large (1,000 megawatt+) interstate transmission lines to support the 4-fold increase in renewable energy and the Biden administration to leverage existing authorities to move towards a “permit one, build many” model, relying on the aggressive use of programmatic environmental impact statements.” And, they want states to set clearer standards for process, inclusion, wildlife protections, and using renewable energy projects to maximize community benefits. They have opposed these shortcuts for other forms of energy but are racing to establish them for their preferred renewable energy technologies.

There is no mention of the cost to build the transmission lines that wind and solar need to get the power they generate from remote resource areas of wind and sun to populated areas that need the power as President Biden wants to displace perfectly good fossil fuel-generated electricity as part of his climate goals. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule to force coal plants out of existence and to add huge costs to natural gas plants or retire them as well. Further, there is no mention that the current U.S. transmission system is adequate to handle the fossil fuel and nuclear generated electricity that currently powers around 80 percent of electricity demand as those generators are already located near demand centers.

On top of EPA’s proposed power plant rule, EPA also has a proposed tailpipe emissions rule to make two-thirds of new car sales electric by 2032. That rule will increase the demand for electricity. So, not only are wind and solar power expected by supporters to displace fossil fuel generation, mainly from coal and natural gas, but they are also supposed to generate enough power to meet the increased demand from electric vehicles being forced upon consumers by the Biden administration in their quest to electrify transportation.

Princeton University study analyzing a “net zero by 2050” scenario estimated that a transmission system to achieve net-zero carbon emissions would cost $2.4 trillion by 2050. High-voltage transmission lines would have to increase 60 percent by 2030 and triple through 2050. California alone may need to spend $50 billion by 2035 to accommodate new electrification of products, including electric vehicles. While EPA says it addresses cost in its analysis of proposed regulations, it analyzes each proposal in a vacuum, assuming its other proposals do not exist, which is just one of the flaws in its analyses.

Under Princeton University’s high-renewable-energy scenario, where solar and wind would account for virtually all electricity generation in the United States in 2050, the number of wind turbines would require roughly 244 million acres of uninhabited land—even assuming efficiency improvements. That is just under the combined acreages of Texas and California totaling 268 million acres. It is also 6 times as much land as the United States currently has urbanized.

The current U.S. electrical system only uses about 20 million acres for the power generation business, including fuel-source production (e.g., coal, natural gas, solar, wind, nuclear and hydropower), and power plants. It is clear from these numbers that wind and solar use far, far more land than our existing sources of energy. Today’s power lines take up 4.8 million acres in the United States, but that could increase sharply the more renewables that are added. More transmission lines will be needed, and more lines means more permitting, which is a time-consuming, multiyear process. The 125 mile Ten West Link transmission project between southern California and Arizona, for example, was initiated in 2014 to transmit solar energy, approved by the Bureau of Land Management in November 2019,  authorized for construction in July 2022 and is to be completed by the end of 2023 at a cost of $280 million.

Source: Wall Street Journal

 Yes, permitting reform is needed, but that reform should be for all project types and all fuels, as well as oil and gas pipelines that are seeing enormous increases in costs as permit and court delays stymie their progress. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, connecting natural gas resources from West Virginia to Virginia, was originally scheduled for completion in 2018 and is now costing the company $6.6 billion, almost double the original estimate of $3.5 million and is still facing delays, despite being 94 percent complete. According to government data, it takes an average of 5.3 years for a public transportation project to obtain the necessary federal permits and 7.4 years for obtaining permits for sizable road and bridge improvements. A new 732-mile transmission line to move wind energy from the plains of Wyoming to four other states took 16 years to permit. There is a well-founded belief among many Americans who have experience with delays that “you can’t build anything anymore.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin from West Virginia mentioned the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the need for judicial reforms during a hearing on overhauling the permitting process for energy projects on federal land. According to Manchin, “Given how behind we are building the energy infrastructure this country needs for our security, Congress should direct the courts to expedite proceedings for these projects.” Manchin, a Democrat, is talking about permitting reform for more than just wind, solar and transmission projects.


Changes to the approval and construction process for transmission lines have been a priority for many Democrats because the new lines are needed to fully attain the benefits of President Joe Biden’s climate law and its hundreds of billions of dollars for renewable subsidies paid for by taxpayers. The siting and permitting process does need to be efficient, protective, and just, from the federal level to the local level, not just for renewable energy projects and the transmission lines they need as many Democrats and environmentalists are pushing, but for all project types and sources. Further, the market should determine those projects and sources, not a temporary central government picking favorites. The United States does not need a two-tiered permitting system.

If wind and solar power are the most economically attractive options by including the full cost for added high voltage transmission, land usage and backup power when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing (which in both cases is more than half the time given their capacity factors), they would be built by the market without needing decades of taxpayer support in the form of subsidies. But, advocates of wind and solar power do not include all costs when comparing them against traditional technologies, but still want the government to provide subsidies, mandates and permitting reform for them and their transmission lines. Given the enormous land demands for diffuse energy by green groups, it appears they are more interested in the commercial use of lands for renewable energy than in protecting those lands, their oft-stated goal when opposing other uses.

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