Governors say West Must Remove
by Steven K. Paulson, Associated Press
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Western states need to tear down the barriers that limit their ability to share electricity if they hope to tap into renewable energy and other electric sources the region needs to grow, governors said Thursday.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said such projects as his state's plan to share transmission lines with Wyoming and New Mexico to export electricity to Arizona and California won't work unless states cooperate.
"We hope to partner with those other states, with their transmission authorities, to do the things necessary to map a regional grid," Ritter said.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Wyoming produces more electricity than it can use, but can't get it to markets that need it. He said unlike coal and gas fired plants, the transmission lines have to be built to the source of electricity, like wind or geothermal plants. However, the electricity markets are built on the premise that consumers pay for the plants and transmission lines, and the ultimate users will be in other states outside the authority of regulators in states that produce it. He said a new federal regulation system is needed to force states to work together.
Jon Wellington, a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said the federal government is doing all it can to promote the use of renewable energy. He said emerging renewable energy technologies are more expensive and need support from the federal government to get the power to market.
Jonathan Weisgall, president of the Geothermal Energy Association, said there are 74 geothermal electric projects under development in the West that could provide 2,900 megawatts, more than double the 2,850 megawatts now being produced, but the full potential cannot be tapped because only 550 miles of high voltage power lines have been built across state borders since the beginning of this decade, compared with 5,000 miles of gas transmission lines.
He said very little has been done to extend transmission lines in the West, and power companies have underinvested for the past 20 years. He said the current system is at capacity, and the West needs to tap into major new resources.
Weisgall said there are plans to build 1,200 miles of transmission lines linking Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Oregon by 2014 at a cost of $4 billion, but it will need support from state and federal regulators. He said the federal government is encouraging the development of wind, solar and geothermal electric power, but little has been done to cut red tape that bars states from taking federal land to build transmission lines needed to criscross the West, which has vast areas of federal land.
"Where is the underlying federal program to bring these resources to market? We have policies to develop the resources, but we need to get the resources to market," he said.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs