U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., members of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, have introduced legislation in the House that would make renewable electricity produced in rural areas available to urban energy users.
The Rural Clean Energy Superhighways Act would improve electricity transmission from rural areas with significant renewable energy potential, while spreading the cost of construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure throughout a region. Promising sources of renewable energy often are located in remote areas where transmission lines currently are nonexistent or inadequate to deliver new electricity generation to market.
Regions of the U.S have enormous potential to generate electricity using renewable resources, such as wave, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Some estimates reach as much as 600,000 MW of economically usable renewable resources, enough to meet roughly half of U.S. energy demand by the year 2025.
The lack of sufficient electric transmission capacity in remote, renewable energy-rich areas represents a barrier to developing these resources and meeting standards for clean energy in the electricity mix. Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C. have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
In August, the U.S. House passed in its energy-independence package a federal RPS for at least 15% renewable electricity and efficiency improvements before 2020.
The Inslee-Blumenauer legislation is modeled, in part, on a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruling issued last April in response to a petition by California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAISO). CAISO originally went to FERC for approval of a financing mechanism to cover the cost of constructing transmission between remotely located wind projects and the rest of its grid. In September, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced a similar bill, S. 2076, the Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act.