By Jasmin Melvin

Legislation expanding federal authority over transmission siting would not be a silver bullet, capable of solving the challenges ahead for building out the grid to accommodate federal and state climate goals, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said June 30.

While FERC has authority to site interstate natural gas pipelines and preempt most state objections to a gas project, Congress did not grant it similar authority with respect to electric transmission facilities, which are primarily subject to state regulatory authority with very limited backstop siting authority granted to FERC.

“I think certainly it would have a significant impact if the transmission siting process were improved and made more efficient” by providing FERC the same kind of siting authority as it holds for gas pipelines, FERC Chairman Richard Glick said during a virtual forum hosted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

“But I also don’t want to leave the impression that that would be the end-all and be-all because even if you had a better siting process, you still have to work out the planning and, more importantly, the cost-allocation issues,” Glick said. “Otherwise, a lot of these projects still aren’t going to get built.”

Various studies have estimated the US will need to double or even triple its transmission capacity to meet the Biden administration’s goal of decarbonizing the nation’s economy by midcentury. But the buildout of interstate transmission lines needed to accommodate a growing number of renewable energy resources has lagged in recent years amid local landowner opposition and disagreements over how to allocate costs according to a project’s benefits.

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