Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada introduced a bill today that will provide additional financing options for building new power transmission lines and interconnections to carry power from renewable energy zones to areas with growing electricity demand.
“I recently came out in opposition to the proposed coal power plants,” said Reid. “But I want to do more than just voice my opinion. I want to be part of the solution. The Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act will help Nevada become the leader in renewable energy and energy independence. This legislation puts to rest the false assumption that the only way to finance transmission lines is through building dirty coal power plants. In fact, this bill is a method to finance these power lines that will bring our state’s abundant clean energy to the homes of Nevadans. I’m happy to bring this solution to the table that will help protect the environment and our air, while creating thousands of jobs and developing our economy.”
Reid’s legislation would direct the President to identify areas of the country, especially rural areas, where renewable energy resources could generate at least 1,000 MW of electricity. The Federal power marketing administrations, like the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), would have a year to identify the types of high-voltage or interconnection lines needed to access the renewable power in those zones.
If, after two years, no private entities step forward to fund the construction of transmission lines to the renewable energy zones, then WAPA and the four other Federal power administrations (Bonneville, Southeastern, Southwestern, and Tennessee Valley Authority), would each be granted an additional $10 billion in bonding authority to finance those lines. This is particularly important for WAPA, which does not now have sufficient authority to finance transmission.
This legislation would also require the power administrations to start integrating renewable energy and energy efficiency into all of their programs, including finding ways to reduce petroleum consumption through electricifying the transportation sector using renewable power and encouraging more distributed generation.
The estimated cost of building connecting the northern and southern grids is about $600 million. That is roughly the cost that ratepayers will pay for importing coal for just two years at the proposed coal plants. Those plants will burn at least $12-20 billion worth of coal and ratepayers money over their 40-year lifespan, though most coal plants last much longer. Experts estimate that there are at least an estimated additional 1300 MW of baseload geothermal electricity generation in the northern part of the state that could be brought online within the next 5-6 years with sufficient investment and thereby help finance the interconnection of the Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Power grids.
Reid’s bill limits the Federal financing of high-voltage transmission lines to only those that carry at least 75 percent renewable electricity, and applies the same limitation to any new lines to be built across Federal lands.
A copy of the bill is attached.