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Electric Power Transmission: Background and Policy Issues

Electric Power Transmission: Background and Policy Issues

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Published by: romulusx on May 27, 2009
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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Electric Power Transmission: Background andPolicy Issues
Stan Mark Kaplan
Specialist in Energy and Environmental PolicyApril 14, 2009
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govR40511
 
Electric Power Transmission: Background and Policy IssuesCongressional Research Service
Summary
This report provides background information on electric power transmission and related policyissues. Proposals for changing federal transmission policy before the 111
th
Congress include S.539, the Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act, introduced on March 5,2009; and the March 9, 2009, majority staff transmission siting draft of the Senate Energy andNatural Resources Committee. The policy issues identified and discussed in this report include:
 Federal Transmission Planning
:
several current proposals call for the federal government tosponsor and supervise large scale, on-going transmission planning programs. Issues for Congressto consider are the objectives of the planning process (e.g., a focus on supporting the developmentof renewable power or on a broader set of transmission goals), determining how much authoritynew interconnection-wide planning entities should be granted, the degree to which transmissionplanning needs to consider non-transmission solutions to power market needs, what resources theexecutive agencies will need to oversee the planning process, and whether the benefits forprojects included in the transmission plans (e.g., a federal permitting option) will motivatedevelopers to add unnecessary features and costs to qualify proposals for the plan.
 Permitting of Transmission Lines
:
a contentious issue is whether the federal government shouldassume from the states the primary role in permitting new transmission lines. Related issuesinclude whether Congress should view management and expansion of the grid as primarily a stateor national issue, whether national authority over grid reliability (which Congress established inthe Energy Policy Act of 2005) can be effectively exercised without federal authority overpermitting, if it is important to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines (which is oneof the assumed benefits of federal permitting), and whether the executive agencies are equippedto take on the task of permitting transmission lines.
Transmission Line Funding and Cost Allocation
:
the primary issues are whether the federalgovernment should help pay for new transmission lines, and if Congress should establish anational standard for allocating the costs of interstate transmission lines to ratepayers.
Transmission Modernization and the Smart Grid 
:
issues include the need for Congressionaloversight of existing federal smart grid research, development, demonstration, and grantprograms; and oversight over whether the smart grid is actually proving to be a good investmentfor taxpayers and ratepayers.
Transmission System Reliability
:
it is not clear whether Congress and the executive branch havethe information needed to evaluate the reliability of the transmission system. Congress may alsowant to review whether the power industry is striking the right balance between modernizationand new construction as a means of enhancing transmission reliability, and whether the reliabilitystandards being developed for the transmission system are appropriate for a rapidly changingpower system.This report will be updated as warranted.
 
Electric Power Transmission: Background and Policy IssuesCongressional Research Service
Contents
Introduction and Organization.....................................................................................................1
 
Overview of the Electric Power System.......................................................................................1
 
Physical and Technical Features of the Power System...........................................................1
 
Regulatory Framework..........................................................................................................5
 
State Regulation and Self-Governing Public Power.........................................................6
 
Federal Regulation of Electric Power Transmission and Power System Reliability..........6
 
Transmission Planning................................................................................................................9
 
Background..........................................................................................................................9
 
Objectives of the Planning Process......................................................................................10
 
Expansion for Renewable Energy..................................................................................10
 
Expansion for Congestion Relief and Reliability...........................................................11
 
Planning and Alternatives to Transmission....................................................................12
 
Planning Authority..............................................................................................................13
 
Transmission Planning: Summary of Policy Issues..............................................................14
 
Transmission Permitting............................................................................................................15
 
Background and Discussion................................................................................................15
 
Transmission Permitting: Summary of Policy Issues............................................................16
 
Transmission Financing and Cost Allocation.............................................................................17
 
Background........................................................................................................................17
 
Early Financing...................................................................................................................19
 
Cost Allocation...................................................................................................................20
 
Financing and Cost Allocation: Summary of Policy Issues...................................................21
 
Transmission System Modernization and the Smart Grid...........................................................22
 
Background........................................................................................................................22
 
Smart Grid Functions..........................................................................................................23
 
Federal Support for the Smart Grid......................................................................................24
 
Smart Grid Cost and Rate Issues.........................................................................................25
 
Modernization and Smart Grid: Summary of Policy Issues..................................................27
 
Transmission System Reliability...............................................................................................28
 
Problems in Evaluating the Current Reliability Condition of the Grid..................................28
 
Reliability and Grid Modernization.....................................................................................30
 
Reliability and Changes in the Energy Market.....................................................................32
 
Transmission Reliability: Summary of Policy Issues............................................................34
 
Summary of Transmission Policy Issues....................................................................................35
 
Federal Transmission Planning............................................................................................35
 
Permitting of Transmission Lines........................................................................................36
 
Transmission Line Funding and Cost Allocation..................................................................36
 
Transmission Modernization and the Smart Grid.................................................................37
 
Transmission System Reliability.........................................................................................37
 
Figures
Figure 1. Elements of the Electric Power System.........................................................................2
 

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