The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has called for Congressional action to maintain transmission system reliability, saying that investment in the grid is lagging behind growing demand.

FERC chairman Pat Wood said: “Right now, our electricity transmission system is the weakest link in our electric supply system,” adding: “Although the Commission is working within its current statutory authority to encourage infrastructure investment, additional measures are needed to reach the level of investment required to maintain the reliability of the nation’s bulk power system.”

Construction of high-voltage transmission facilities is expected to increase only 6% in line miles over the next decade, while electricity demand is projected to increase by 20% and transmission investment in 1999 was only half of the level 20 years ago. Wood suggested that blurred jurisdictional lines prevented effective demand response programmes.

In making recommendations to Congress ahead of the pending energy legislation, Wood urged Congress to focus on creating a mechanism for mandatory and enforceable power grid reliability standards and providing a federal backstop for electric transmission siting authority. The FERC chairman also called for repeal of the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA).