President Biden has been working towards positioning the USA as a leader in the global race for a clean energy future, including by taking ambitious action to deliver a clean, reliable electric grid, which will help ensure that communities don’t lose power during extreme weather events, lower energy costs, and create good-paying jobs – while tackling the climate crisis. The USA is projected to build more new electric generation capacity this year than it has in two decades – 96 % of that, clean energy. And ten major transmission projects have begun construction, expected to connect nearly 20 GW of new power to the grid.

The Biden-Harris administration is hoping to build on this momentum by launching a Federal-State Modern Grid Deployment Initiative, with commitments from 21 leading states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin. The initiative aims to bring together states, federal entities, and power sector stakeholders to help drive grid adaptation quickly and cost-effectively to meet the challenges and opportunities that the power sector faces in the twenty-first century.

Participating states have committed to prioritise efforts that support the adoption of modern grid solutions to expand grid capacity and build modern grid capabilities on both new and existing transmission and distribution lines. Historically, expanding the capacity of the US power grid has typically relied on building new transmission lines with technologies that have not changed since the mid-twentieth century. Today, a new generation of modern grid technologies provides a significant opportunity to achieve power system capacity expansion, including through high-performance conductors that have the benefit of being able to carry double or more of the amount of power of conventional transmission wires, as well as grid enhancing technologies that maximise electricity transmission across the existing system through a family of technologies that includes sensors, power flow control devices, and analytical tools. Deploying these tools means that renewables and other clean sources of power can be integrated sooner and more cost-effectively than waiting for new transmission construction.

Technical assistance

Alongside this announcement, the US Climate Alliance announced the availability of policy, technical, and analytical assistance to help participating members advance state-level efforts to carry out these commitments. In conjunction the Department of Energy is elevating the host of technical assistance programmes that can support varying levels of analysis for utilities, policy makers, regulators, state energy offices, and other stakeholders.

In particular, the 21 states signing on as inaugural members will focus on:

  • Meeting the shared challenges and opportunities of increased load growth, a rapidly changing energy landscape, aging infrastructure, and new grid-enhancing technologies – while delivering reliable, clean, and affordable energy to consumers.
  • Deploying innovative grid technologies to bolster the capacity of the grid and more effectively meet current and future demand, maximise benefits of new and existing transmission infrastructure, increase grid resilience to the growing impacts of climate change, and better protect consumers from variability in energy prices.

In May, the administration announced a public-private mobilisation to upgrade 100 000 miles of existing lines with these types of high-impact solutions over the next five years as part of a suite of announcements in the power sector.

The administration intends to advance this goal by accelerating permitting through New Categorical Exclusions for Reconductoring. Previously, projects to upgrade a transmission line above 20 miles in length could trigger a detailed environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The Department of Energy in May expanded a categorical exclusion for upgrading and rebuilding transmission lines, replacing the previous length limits. DOE also made changes to categorical exclusions for certain energy storage and solar projects on previously developed lands.

  • Funding the deployment of advanced grid technologies: President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) have provided the largest investment in history to strengthen the nation’s power grid, including programs that can support transmission line upgrades. For example, DOE’s Grid Deployment Office is administering $10.5 billion in competitive grant funding through the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships GRID programme.