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Policy Statement 484 - Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on March 14, 2019
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 28, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2019

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the maintenance, development, and continual assessment of reliability and resiliency improvements of the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure the efforts should be based upon reasonable projections of increased demand, shifting sources of generation, and the need to maintain the nation's energy reliability and security. Specifically, ASCE supports:

  • Adoption of a federal energy policy that carefully considers and responds to a changing mix of energy sources - such as renewables - and distributed generation, to provide clear direction for meeting current and future demands;
  • Mechanisms for a streamlined and timely approval of permitting transmission lines to minimize the period from preliminary planning to operation; 
  • Developing a national "storm hardening" plan that strengthens systems to withstand reasonable storms and enable rapid restoration of energy supply after storm events;
  • Promoting electric power generation, transmission, and distribution reliability and resiliency;
  • Encouraging the use of ASCE Standards, Manuals of Practice, and other accepted engineering standards in the design and construction of transmission and distribution infrastructure;
  • Identification and prioritization of risks to energy security in the electric power grid, and development of standards and guidelines for managing those risks;
  • Design, including life-cycle costs analysis, and construction of additional transmission grid infrastructure to efficiently deliver power from generation sources to regions with the greatest demand requirements;
  • Incentives to promote energy conservation;
  • The development of clean and renewable electric power generation;
  • Continuing research to improve and enhance the nation's transmission, generation, and distribution infrastructure, as well as the deployment of technologies such as smart grid, real-time forecasting for transmission capacity, and sustainable energy generation which provides a reasonable return on investment; and
  • Research to appropriately value and remove market barriers to new energy storage projects, which could improve the reliability of the nation's electric grid and defer the need for some transmission investments.

Issue

The electric grid in the United States consists of a system of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, and the more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the lower 48 states' power grids are at full capacity. Today, we have an aging and complex patchwork system of power generating plants, transmission and distribution lines, and substations that must operate cohesively to power our homes and businesses. With increasing demand, the retiring of fossil fuel generation, and the creation of new renewable generation in different geographies, the need to add new transmission lines and energy storage has become even greater.  

Rationale

The power grid faces challenges from vulnerability to cyber-attacks, aging equipment and infrastructure, and an increase in public expectation of reliable 'always on' electricity. Weather events have caused significant long-term outages in the past few decades all over the U.S. Capacity bottlenecks are also emerging in some areas due to the complex process of rotating in new energy sources and "retiring" older infrastructure.

Nationally, extending current trends will lead to funding gaps in electric generation, transmission, and distribution that are projected to grow over time to $177 billion by 2025 and almost $732 billion by 2040. A failure to close the projected investment gap will cost the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) an estimated $79 billion by 2040.

ASCE Policy Statement 484
First Approved in 2001


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