Aug 27, 2021 • 1HR 8M

Volts podcast: the challenges of building transmission in the US, and how to overcome them, with Liza Reed

A review of dysfunctional transmission policy and possible fixes.

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Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)
Episode details

Electricity transmission has been having a moment lately, getting more attention from analysts and policymakers than it has in … well, at least in my lifetime. 

There's good reason for this: every single model of deep decarbonization shows that, to get there, the US will need lots, lots more long-distance high-voltage power lines, to carry renewable energy from the remote areas where it is concentrated to the urban load centers where it is needed. 

The problem is, the current system for planning and building those long-distance power lines is utterly dysfunctional, at every level, which means they aren't getting built. The US will not decarbonize on time or on budget unless it can figure this out.

It's a thorny, complicated subject — not just understanding all the flaws in the current process, but figuring out how to move forward with solutions. Loyal Volts subscribers will recall that I wrote a five-part series on these issues earlier this year, but if you're looking for a more compact & polished version, I highly recommend a newly released report, jointly produced by the Niskanen Center & the Clean Air Task Force, called, "How are we going to build all that clean energy infrastructure?" 

Liza Reed (Photo: Niskanen Center)

The report emerged from a workshop held with a variety of professionals across the industry and serves as a plain-language summary of the problems facing transmission in the US today and the candidate solutions. It's remarkably readable, even for non-nerds — I recommend checking it out.

To walk through those problems and possible solutions, I'm excited to have as my guest today Liza Reed, the Research Manager for Low Carbon Technology Policy at Niskanen. Reed completed and defended a dissertation on these issues just a few years ago and has been a crucial help to me in parsing through them, so I'm thrilled she's joining me today, so that Volts listeners can also benefit.