Aug 8 • 49M

Volts podcast: when transmission planning actually goes well

Digging into the good news out of MISO with Lauren Azar.

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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!)
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Volts subscribers are well aware that the US, like most places, badly needs more long-distance power lines. Such lines unlock the potential of regions where renewable energy is abundant but people are scarce. They lower system costs for all customers on the grid. They make the grid more reliable and resilient.

However, it is incredibly difficult to build these lines. The process is a bureaucratic tangle, with ubiquitous controversies over how to allocate costs and benefits, and the pace of building is woefully short of what will be needed to help the US hit its carbon emissions targets.

But a ray of sunshine pierced that generally gloomy situation last week, when the market monitor of the midwest wholesale electricity market — the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO — announced the results of its Long-Range Transmission Planning Initiative. It laid out a roadmap that would involve $10 billion worth of investment in some 2,000 miles of new transmission lines, which MISO anticipates could unlock more than 50 gigawatts of pent-up renewable energy.

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To someone like me, so accustomed to stories of failure around transmission, it came as a bit of a bolt from the blue. But it is, in fact, the result of years of long, steady work by advocates, stakeholders, and experts — including my guest today.

Lauren Azar

Lauren Azar is a longtime attorney and consultant working in the electricity industry. During her time as a lawyer, she has also worked as a senior advisor to the US secretary of energy on electricity grid issues, a commissioner on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, and president of the Organization of MISO States, which was deeply involved in the last round of transmission planning in MISO. There's nobody in a better position to explain what has just happened in MISO and what it means for the larger field of transmission planning, so I'm extremely excited to welcome her on to the pod today.