Home Tech Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initial List of High-Priority Areas for Accelerated Transmission Expansion

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initial List of High-Priority Areas for Accelerated Transmission Expansion

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initial List of High-Priority Areas for Accelerated Transmission Expansion
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initial List of High-Priority Areas for Accelerated Transmission Expansion

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a continued effort to expedite the build out of a resilient and reliable electric grid, today the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a preliminary list of 10 potential National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) to accelerate the development of transmission projects in areas that present an urgent need for expanded transmission. DOE also announced minimum eligibility criteria for direct loans under the Transmission Facility Financing (TFF) program. Supported by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the TFF program can finance the development of billions of dollars of transmission projects in designated NIETCs. DOE is now seeking public input on both the preliminary list of potential NIETCs and the TFF program application and evaluation process.  

“At more than a century old, our power grid is showing its age, leaving American consumers to bear the costs of maintaining it with frequent and longer power outages from extreme weather,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The Biden-Harris Administration is leveraging every tool to expand transmission and deploy more reliable, affordable, and clean power in every pocket of the nation.”   

“In order to reach our clean energy and climate goals, we’ve got to build out transmission as fast as possible to get clean power from where it’s produced to where it’s needed,” said John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy. “As today’s announcements demonstrate, the Biden-Harris administration is committed to using every tool at our disposal to accelerate progress on transmission permitting and financing and build a clean energy future.”  

“President Biden’s leadership has sparked an unprecedented expansion in American manufacturing and clean energy, and we are building out the nation’s power grid to keep pace with this historic growth,” said Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi. “Thanks to the President’s vision, the United States is projected to build more new electric generation capacity this year than we have in two decades – and 96 percent of that will be clean. Building on last month’s launch of a public-private mobilization to expand the capacity of the existing U.S. transmission network, upgrading 100,000 miles of power line, this step forward on corridors is the latest way the Biden-Harris Administration is accelerating grid expansion to deliver reliable, affordable power across the country. This is how we win the future, by harnessing new technologies to grow our economy, create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, and protect the planet for generations to come.” 

National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors 

The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law amended the Federal Power Act to clarify the Secretary of Energy’s ability to designate any geographic area as a NIETC if it is determined  that consumers are harmed, now or in the future, by a lack of transmission in the area and that the development of new transmission would advance important national interests for that region, such as increased reliability and reduced consumer costs.  

A NIETC designation unlocks critical federal financing and permitting tools to spur transmission development, including direct loans through the TFF program, public-private partnerships through the Transmission Facilitation Program, and Federal siting and permitting authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in certain limited circumstances. Developers and state and local siting authorities may also be able to leverage the environmental analysis conducted by DOE as part of the NIETC designation process to complete local siting and permitting processes, which could ultimately accelerate siting and permitting for transmission projects in these targeted, high-priority areas. 

DOE released final guidance on NIETC designation in December 2023, and initiated a four-phase process by inviting interested parties to suggest specific geographic areas where a NIETC designation may be particularly helpful in advancing transmission to meet significant regional need. After independent analysis and review of public input, DOE’s preliminary list of potential NIETCs includes 10 narrow geographic areas spanning nine of the regions identified by DOE’s 2023 National Transmission Needs Study.  

The potential NIETCs: 

  • Include one or more potential transmission projects currently under development whose deployment could be accelerated by the tools unlocked by NIETC designation.
  • Range in width from less than one mile to near 100 miles and in length from 12 to 780 miles. 
  • Often parallel existing rights of way such as state highways and high-voltage transmission lines.
  • Have the potential to facilitate the integration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, including offshore wind generation in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Present the opportunity to increase transmission capacity between the Eastern and Western Interconnections–two otherwise largely disconnected grids.  

The preliminary list includes maps of each potential NIETC. The maps should be viewed as rough approximations. The geographic boundaries of any potential NIETC that continues in the designation process may ultimately differ from what is presented in the preliminary list. Today’s announcement is not designating any final NIETC. 

Today’s announcement initiates Phase 2 of the NIETC designation process, including opening a 45-day window for public comments on the geographic boundaries and potential impacts of NIETC designation on environmental, community, and other resources. For example, interested parties may provide information such as the location of wetlands, recreation areas, historic properties, residences, businesses, abandoned mines, and/or croplands. 

The public comment period will close at 5:00 p.m. ET on June 24, 2024. Submissions must be made by emailing NIETC@hq.doe.gov. There will be an informational webinar on May 16, 2024, at 3:30 p.m. ET. Registration is required

Following Phase 2, DOE will prioritize which potential NIETCs move from the preliminary list to Phase 3, during which DOE will draft NIETC designation reports, conduct environmental reviews, proceed with government-to-government consultation with any impacted Tribal Nations as appropriate, and engage in robust public engagement. DOE anticipates announcing the narrowed list of potential NIETCs and initiating Phase 3 in the fall of 2024. 

Transmission Facility Financing Program 

The TFF program provides direct loans for eligible transmission projects within a NIETC. The Inflation Reduction Act appropriated $2 billion which may cover the credit subsidy cost of those loans, unlocking billions in total loan volume under the program. DOE is currently seeking public input on the scope of eligible projects and project financing requirements, including feedback from utilities and project developers that are interested in seeking direct loan support through the program for a specific project in or near one of the potential NIETCs.  

Parties interested in providing comments, including utilities and project developers, are encouraged to contact DOE at TFF@hq.doe.gov by July 31, 2024, to register input. DOE anticipates opening the TFF program in 2025.  

Learn more about the Grid Deployment Office

Originally published at https://www.energy.gov/articles/biden-harris-administration-announces-initial-list-high-priority-areas-accelerated