TransMissives is a blog dedicated to exploring the complex world of electricity transmission and renewable energy integration issues in the United States. You would not be alone in thinking that these are odd topics for a blog, (honestly, a site like this would be much more fun to curate), but these are actually important issues, so here are some reasons why you should take a second look and stick around:
- Our country’s antiquated and overburdened electricity grid is one of the largest impediments to increasing renewable energy generation and instituting effective climate change policies. The good news is that more states are supporting renewable energy now than ever before, and this energy technology is becoming increasingly cost-competitive with fossil-fuel based sources (coal, LNG, etc.). The bad news is that it is still difficult to bring that renewable energy to the market, which limits continued renewables investment in certain parts of the country.
- Unless the deficiencies in our transmission system are addressed, congestion constraints will continue to cause our electricity rates to rise. Least-cost energy sources are the low-hanging fruit that all utilities want to snatch up for their ratepayers. However, because many parts of the grid are already functioning at high capacity, it can often become difficult to transmit that energy into high-demand areas. In such cases, utilities are forced to purchase from more expensive sources in less congested areas, raising electricity rates in the process. Further, if constraints get severe enough, the grid can become vulnerable to unexpected outages.
- On top of everything, the nature of the customer-utility relationship is changing in response to environmental concerns and technological innovation. For the past century, electricity has been delivered to users from central generation plants operated primarily by vertically integrated utilities. However, beginning with restructuring efforts in the late 1990s, the electric system is evolving: customers want more options (greater efficiency, self-generation ability, real-time pricing, etc.), and climate change concerns are driving dirtier sources offline in favor of greener — but more intermittent — generation. As these demands become more widespread they become increasingly incompatible with a longstanding utility regulatory and business framework structured around selling kilowatts and building centralized generators. How will these frameworks evolve to accommodate these new demands on the system? It’s an important question that regulators, industry members, and interlopers like yours truly are very interested in.
The goal for TransMissives is simply to serve as a source of information on electricity transmission and renewable energy issues. This site is the side project of Adrienne Thompson, a 2013 graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland Ore. For reasons unknown, Adrienne is interested in the U.S. electric system, and in energy and environmental law in general. In Fall 2014, after completing a judicial clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court, Adrienne began working as an energy policy fellow at George Washington University Law School while also pursuing a masters in Environmental & Energy law and policy — a degree that she completed with highest honors. In 2016, Adrienne finished her research position and returned home to the Pacific Northwest where she currently practices federal energy regulatory law in the Portland office of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP.