Renewables and Fossil Fuels Race to Benefit from IRAs Streamlining of Permits

Renewables and Fossil Fuels Race to Benefit from IRAs Streamlining of Permits

To achieve a clean energy transition, America needs to build a lot: solar and wind farms will need to be constructed to generate renewable energy -- and so will transmission lines to carry power to where people live. The current permitting process to get these projects built is inefficient for the task at hand and needs updating for the US to build at the speed and scale necessary. A side deal to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) promises to streamline permitting for all energy infrastructure, hammered out to give Sen. Joe Manchin swift construction of a West Virginia gas pipeline.

60 Minutes: How secure is America’s electric grid?, February 27, 2022.

Democracy Now!: Appalachians Protest Manchin's Mountain Valley Pipeline Plan; Sanders Decries "Disastrous Side Deal," September 9, 2022.

Why This Matters

Building new gas pipelines and investing in fossil fuel projects aren’t the types of energy projects that should be expedited. But depending on the details of the permitting reform bill changes, it would also provide a faster timeline and smoother process for renewables, which is essential. The US needs to double its solar and wind power and increase its transmission capacity by 60% by the end of the decade, and all the incentives in the IRA for investment in these areas won’t be maximized if the permitting process remains slow and cumbersome.

“We need to build transmission very quickly and very dramatically,” Liza Reed, the research manager for electricity transmission at the center-right think tank Niskanen Center, told the Washington Post. “There’s no two ways about it.”

YaleConnections360: The Product | LNG and Energy's Perfect Storm, December 20, 2021.

FT: Expanding America’s superhighways of clean energy, September 21, 2021.

Bloomberg: Solar Energy Demand Set to Surge in 2022, July 27, 2022.

Interconnection Is Key

Back in 2005, you could build a solar project in about two years. Now, it takes twice as long to finish a project, and only about a quarter of the projects that start the interconnection process get completed. The lack of transmission is a significant hurdle for renewables, which need long-distance lines. Nearly all the energy capacity to meet the Biden Administration’s target of​​ 95% carbon-free energy by 2035 is possible, but it's backlogged by a lack of interconnection.

“Our backlogs are indicating that our wind and solar developers are eager to meet that demand,” Joseph Rand, a senior scientific engineering associate tracking interconnection queues at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, told Utility Dive, “but that our transmission and interconnection system and procedures are not keeping pace with meeting that demand.”

CNBC: “We are in an epic transition from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy” | John Doerr, June 27, 2022.

WW0: Creating Jobs While Decarbonizing the US Economy, June 28, 2022.

CBS (Canada): Oil-rich Texas sees clean energy boom, March 25, 2022.