The Biden administration rolled out new programs Tuesday to bolster the U.S. power grid, framing them as part of its effort to fight climate change through infrastructure improvements needed to expand use of alternative energy.
The core initiatives provide more than $8 billion of Energy Department financing for new high-voltage transmission lines. In addition, the White House said it was issuing new guidance to states on how to remove obstacles to construction of new power lines along highways, railroads and other rights of way.
President Biden has backed new electric-transmission capacity as a way to boost low-carbon energy supply by connecting the often remote hot spots for wind and solar power to more populated areas.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has been seeking to revive her agency’s loan program to help, saying better grid connections will also boost reliability during extreme weather, pointing to the recent blackout crises in Texas and last year in California.
"We have to add hundreds of gigawatts of clean energy to the grid to get to the goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and net zero carbon emissions by 2050," Ms. Granholm said in an interview Tuesday on The Journal, a podcast from The Wall Street Journal and Gimlet Media. "So ‘deploy, deploy deploy’ is our mantra."
The agency’s loan program will be the main source of the money. It is seeking applications for up to $5 billion in loan guarantees for projects that might transport direct current, connect to offshore wind farms or be sited along railroads and highways, the White House said.
The Western Area Power Administration, a federally owned utility, is also relaunching an infrastructure program with $3.25 billion for transmission.
The Transportation Department is issuing guidance on rights of way along highways. It aims to help state agencies host transmission lines and other infrastructure within existing rights of way.
Plans to build new power lines are frequently challenged by local landowners and communities who object to the construction and obstruction to land and views with often little in return from lines transporting power to somewhere else.
Such opposition can stall construction for years, potentially scuttling Mr. Biden’s plans to boost the clean-power sector by expanding subsidies and addressing bottlenecks impeding the shift to a greener grid.
Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, a coalition including utility owners, renewable-energy companies and environmental groups that advocates for more high-capacity transmission, issued a report Tuesday identifying 22 "shovel ready," high-voltage transmission projects nationwide that have stalled.
The group, which has been working with the White House, said the projects would be more likely to start construction if the federal government made several policy changes, including streamlining permitting, approving new tax credits or direct federal investment.
To read more from The Wall Street Journal, click here.