Surge In Transmission Spending Draws Scrutiny In New England
Utilities spent a staggering $22 billion on expanding the nation’s transmission grid in 2016, according to data collected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
To put this on perspective, utilities invested less than $6 billion in the transmission grid in 2001. In total, utilities spend about $91 billion on the transmission grid between 1980 and 2008, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Transmission investments accounted for about 61% of all utility expenditures – or about $35 billion – in 2016.
And utility spending on transmission projects likely continued to climb in 2017, according to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade organization that represents the investor-owned electric utility industry. The EEI estimates that utility spending on transmission infrastructure will peak at about $23 billion in 2017 and then begin to decline gradually in 2018 and 2019.
The power transmission grid in the United States moves electric power at high voltages over long distances from power plants to centers of customer demand. The transmission grid is connected to the distribution grid at what are called “substations.” The distribution grid carries electric power directly into homes and businesses, usually at much lower voltages than the transmission system.
The surge in transmission spending has triggered an avalanche of complaints in New England.
Beginning in 2011, a parade of protests have been filed with the FERC claiming that several privately-owned utilities in New England are being overcompensated for recent and planned transmission investments.