ICF exec: ‘Baby boomer’ transmission lines contributing to greater investment over next 10, 15 years

While such factors as renewable portfolio standards and aging infrastructure mean more transmission over the next 10 to 15 years, beyond that, things like distributed generation will require transmission to be more heavily justified, according to Elliot Roseman, vice-president, energy, climate and transportation with ICF International.

A “fundamental shift” will happen over the next 10 to 15 years, from more wholesale transmission to more resources at the local level, making transmission one of many options rather than one of the primary options, he said Feb. 29 at Infocast’s Transmission Summit 2012 in Washington, D.C.

For planners, utilities, developers and regulators, that means “you need to focus more on new transmission, particularly larger transmission projects, sooner rather than later, look for ‘no regrets’ types of transmission projects, [or those] that will survive a broad range of different conditions … and continue to emphasize that all resources need to be put on equal footing, whether it’s generation, transmission or demand-side [management],” Roseman said.

Over the next 10 to maybe 15 years, there will be increases in the amount of high voltage transmission that will be coming to fruition, but after that, “we are going to be in a period that you’re going to need much greater justification of transmission,” he said. Factors like broader geographic planning, EPA regulations, NERC/FERC/NARUC reliability, renewable portfolio standards, continuing acquisitions and collaborations, and aging infrastructure will lead to more transmission rather than less over the next decade or so, he said.

Of the aging infrastructure, for instance, he said, “We have kind of a baby boomer phenomenon that I think is taking place with regard to the transmission grid, which [is not] getting any younger.”

About 70% of the country’s transmission lines are over 25 years old, with a number of those being more than 30 or 40 years old, Roseman said, adding that the period 1960-1980 was “kind of the golden era” of transmission investment.

According to ICF, of about 500 different transmission projects in various stages of development throughout the country, the majority of them are being planned to come online in the 2015-2018 timeframe, he said.

Beyond that period, things like distributed generation, storage, electric vehicles and the smart grid will require “transmission to be more targeted, to be more heavily justified and [there will be] a softening or dampening of transmission,” he said.

In that later period, transmission will not fall off a cliff, as there will still be a need for it, but that need will be less, Roseman said.

In some aspects, this is already coming into fruition, he said, noting that in PJM Interconnection, for instance, 7 GW of demand response was cleared in 2012-2013, 9 GW in 2013-2014 and 14 GW in 2014-2015. “That, all things being equal…means that there is less of a need for transmission,” he added.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.