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U.S. Electric Transmission Congestion Persists in Four Key Areas

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that severe transmission congestion problems remain in two key areas from mid-state New York southward along the Atlantic coastal plain to northern Virginia, and the urban areas of southern California, according to a new report.

The report also indicates there is a number of efficiency, generation, and transmission projects planned for these two areas that would help ease their congestion problems, but they are not operational.

Two other areas — the San Francisco Peninsula and the Seattle-Portland area — also continue to have congestion problems, first cited in the DOE’s 2006 report. In the Seattle-Portland region, utilities and other stakeholders are planning to implement a number of new initiatives that should reduce congestion, including multiple transmission projects and a sustained focus on energy efficiency. However, the San Francisco Peninsula has not taken sufficient action to increase the supply of electricity or reduce demand.

The 2009 National Electric Transmission Congestion Study (PDF) assesses the transmission congestion and constraints within the Eastern and Western Interconnections.

The 2006 study identified four additional areas as Congestion Areas of Concern that required close monitoring and further study. In the 2009 report, the Department removed two areas from the list — New England and the Tucson-Phoenix area — because congestion has improved significantly due to several reasons including new generation resources, aggressive demand reduction programs, energy efficiency measures, and new transmission projects.

The Department plans to issue an update next year that includes the impact of the recession on transmission congestion, comments received on the study, and the implications of additional data since May 2009.

Another recent transmission study from the DOE indicates a shift to 20 percent or more of the Eastern Interconnection’s electrical load to wind energy is possible by 2024, but costs for new transmission lines could be as high as $93 billion.

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