Transmission & Markets
Research and Development
Federal investment in research and development (R&D) supports economic growth, drives down costs for key technologies that can be used at home or exported abroad, and promotes U.S. leadership on clean energy and climate. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Electricity focuses primarily on ensuring the resilience and reliability of the power grid. Further R&D for dispatchable power comes from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), DOE national labs, and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
Increased funding for DOE’s Advanced Grid R&D program should prioritize the development of technologies that enable renewable energy integration, including the Advanced Modeling Grid Research Program. Expanding technical assistance grants will also improve transmission capacity at the state and local levels.
In addition, federal policymakers should increase investment and enact programmatic reforms to ensure DOE focuses on advancing R&D for:
- The DOE Grid Modernization Initiative, emphasizing technologies that allow for greater wide-area transfers of energy and easier system balancing;
- Underground high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines;
- Enhanced converter technologies, including grid forming converters and voltage source converters; and
- Grid control technologies such as dynamic line ratings and power flow control.
Validation and Early Deployment
Early Deployment of Grid Enhancing Technologies
Transfers of energy across long distances can be expanded by what FERC has termed “Grid-Enhancing Technologies” (GETs). These include power-flow control, transmission-switching equipment, and advanced line-rating management technologies.
Right now, the principal barrier to deploying GETs is a lack of incentives for regulated transmission owners. Modernized regulation should offer these owners better incentives to make low-cost operational improvements that will enable them to deliver more energy over existing lines.
Rapid, Large Scale Deployment
Building the Macro Grid
To transition from today’s balkanized energy grid to a more seamless system, federal policy should expand transmission infrastructure within and among the three North American grids (Eastern, Western, and Texas). Smart policies can remedy flaws in the current regulatory environment—particularly those involving planning, permitting, and paying for transmission assets—and help ensure that long-term benefits and costs are properly allocated.
Power Market Design and Structure
Wholesale power markets in the U.S. were designed for incumbent sources of electricity, where fuel and operating costs comprise a meaningful share of the total cost of generation. These markets need to be redesigned for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, whose operating and fuel costs are minimal. Expanding trading platforms such as Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) spot energy markets will improve the seamless exchange of power and level the playing field for clean energy technologies. The federal government and federally regulated operators of independent systems play a critical role in facilitating this transition and can encourage a higher penetration of renewable and energy storage resources.