Achieving 100% clean energy by 2035 requires a united approach to vastly complex and systemic problems that the American public—and even policymakers—are only beginning to grasp. For example, rapid deployment of grid-scale wind, solar, battery storage, as well as distributed energy resources and electric vehicles, all depend on resolving fundamental questions about how clean energy projects and infrastructure are sited and approved, how new sources of energy are connected to the grid (and how we recognize the value those resources provide for reliability and resiliency), how we prepare the grid for widespread building and vehicle electrification, and ultimately, how clean power flows reliably and affordably to homes and businesses.
In other words, transitioning to a clean energy future requires more than chasing piecemeal policies that establish new goals or even sharply curtail the use of fossil fuels. It means re-envisioning the American energy economy from the ground up, and pursuing a vast range of policies in the context of a comprehensive strategy that spans individual topics, regulatory and legislative venues, states, and markets. That’s where Advanced Energy United and our partners come in.
Thanks to the support of our philanthropic partners and clean energy industry members, United, the Institute, and Counterspark have focused on developing an inclusive, big picture strategy and delivering tangible policy and legislative wins in key states, regional wholesale electricity markets, and federal venues that advance our vision for a carbon-free future.
Streamlining Siting and Permitting Processes
Clean energy projects, as well as the critical minerals extraction and transmission infrastructure needed to sustain a clean energy economy, face costly delays at the very start of their life cycles in how they are sited and permitted for development. Depending on the scope of a given project, local, state, regional, and federal authorities could all have a say in its siting and permitting process. Consequently, complications can arise at any point in these labyrinthine and already years-long procedures, such as pushback from local communities or environmental groups, bureaucratic inconsistencies, or litigation expressly designed to stall development. Bottlenecks like these scattered throughout the process threaten to stall the broader transition to clean energy, with some delays stretching to a decade or longer.
As part of our mission to realize a 100% carbon-free energy economy by 2035, we and our partners are engaging with state, regional, and federal policymakers to overhaul outdated siting and permitting processes. Over the past year, our federal policy team educated lawmakers on these issues by organizing a Washington D.C. Lobby Day in May 2023 followed by a bipartisan Permitting Reform event in late July 2023, headlined by Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Representative John Curtis (R-UT), focusing on areas for legislative consensus and progress. United continues to push the issue in Congress and has endorsed several bills—including the SITE Act and BIG WIRES Act—that would advance federal permitting reform for transmission infrastructure specifically. The Institute is also engaging with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to bolster their efforts to improve the federal process for transmission siting.
Meanwhile our state engagement teams are also focused on siting and permitting issues, leveraging relationships with governors, state officials, legislators, regulators, and other stakeholders to lift roadblocks and spur targeted reforms in each state. In Colorado, for example—where United helped establish the Colorado Electric Transmission Authority (CETA) to streamline transmission line siting, planning, and development in 2021—we supported legislation in 2023 to expand CETA’s authority, expedite reviews, and implement studies of potential developments in rural areas. Over the coming year, we anticipate significant legislation on siting and permitting and will continue pushing for statewide uniformity in these crucial processes, in large part by incentivizing communities to site clean energy projects and taking advantage of federal funds now available through the historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Speeding Grid-scale Interconnection
Across the U.S., more than 1400 GW of proposed utility-scale energy projects—95% of which are clean energy resources like wind, solar, and battery storage—are stuck in interconnection queues awaiting approval to connect to the electric grid. While necessary, the outdated interconnection process is incapable of serving our evolving energy needs in time to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035. Queued projects face lengthy studies as well as unpredictable and often prohibitively high costs that lead to delays or even cancellations. In just the past five years, process delays and cost increases have led developers to withdraw more than 1,000 clean energy projects—enough to power 18 million homes—from PJM’s regional queue alone.
The Institute has long been engaged in regional and federal regulatory venues that oversee interconnection rules, advocating for crucial reforms that will provide greater transparency, cost stability, and improved timelines for connecting new sources of carbon-free power to the grid. Our close engagement with FERC over the past year helped strengthen a milestone interconnection ruling in July 2023 which calls for several of the first-step reforms we identified as crucial. We also engaged in interstate wholesale electricity markets that FERC oversees to advance regional interconnection reforms affecting at least 19 states.
Looking ahead to 2024, we will continue engaging with FERC and regional regulators to support the implementation of recent rulings and advocate for additional reforms. The Institute is pleased to announce that we are expanding our wholesale markets engagement to include two new venues—the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP)—bringing another 15 states into the fold of our efforts to reform the vital process of interconnection. This expansion is made possible by the support of our philanthropic partners.
Preparing the Grid for an Electrified Future
As both the transportation and building sectors shift rapidly toward electrification, we are working with states and utilities to prepare the electric grid to support increasing demand for power. Failure to do so could result in demand for electricity outpacing supply, increasingly volatile consumer rates, slowed adoption of fossil-free technologies, and skewed public perceptions that clean energy itself is to blame for such outcomes.
With the long view in mind, Institute experts recently issued model policies and regulations that will equip state decision-makers to plan proactively for an electrified future, e.g., through inter-agency coordination and stakeholder engagement, integrated grid planning, anticipatory capital deployment to speed new infrastructure, public-private partnerships, utility business model reforms, DER integration and compensation, and maximizing the use of existing resources.
Meanwhile at United and Counterspark, our most recent achievement on grid readiness—and a major legislative win—was the bipartisan passage of the Powering Up Californians Act, which speeds the development of wired connections from California homes and businesses to the grid as consumers pursue options to lower their bills, optimize energy efficiency, and electrify their vehicles and buildings. Our experts helped write the bill, educate policymakers on its importance, and advocate for its passage.
In the next year, we will expand our focus on grid readiness as a core component of our growing state engagement portfolio, closely coordinating the efforts of our transportation and building sector electrification teams.
Accelerating the Buildout of Transmission Infrastructure
Equally important to the question of how the U.S. generates its electricity—using fossil fuels or carbon-free, renewable technology—is how we deliver it effectively, affordably, and reliably to consumers. America’s aging electric transmission system is in dire need of upgrades and expansion to meet rising energy demands. We must therefore accelerate the buildout of long-distance transmission towers and lines to achieve 100% clean power by 2035, as well as to modernize the grid for a fully electrified future.
United, Counterspark, and the Institute have notched key transmission wins over the past year in both legislative and regulatory venues, and at the state and regional levels. In April 2023 we helped secure the bipartisan passage of the POWER Act, Maryland’s groundbreaking new law that lays the foundation for 8.5 GW of offshore wind development along with the expansion of crucial transmission infrastructure required to support it—not only opening a viable pathway to meet Maryland’s clean energy goals on time, but also creating economic opportunity and well-paying jobs throughout the state. United also provided decision-maker education and thought leadership in other states like Texas, where we released a report in July 2023 outlining the most cost-effective approach for modernizing the state’s grid through the strategic buildout of necessary transmission infrastructure. Among other findings in our report, we estimated that our recommended approach would lead to lower electricity bills for millions of Texans, more than $7 billion in taxpayer savings, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, bolstered grid reliability, and more than 40,000 new jobs in the Lone Star state.
Meanwhile, at the California ISO (CAISO), the Institute supported the advancement of a major proposal to authorize $9.3 billion for building 46 new transmission projects, speeding infrastructure buildout, and opening access to clean energy resources across the Western region. We also focused on cultivating interstate cooperation between leaders, for example, by convening a series of roundtable discussions between Governors and state energy officials in New England on expanding offshore wind and transmission infrastructure in service to the entire region.
With support from our members, partners, and philanthropic funders, we continue to engage across state, regional, and federal arenas in pursuit of policies that speed the coordinated buildout of vital transmission infrastructure. Our work in 2024 will kick off with new case studies and educational videos highlighting the many benefits of a modernized transmission system terms of decarbonization potential, economic opportunity, jobs, and bolstered grid reliability, and energy security.
Looking Forward to 2024
For more than a decade, our organization has served as a trusted, influential voice among state, regional, and national decision-makers. We educate and engage these leaders on the full spectrum of challenges and opportunities involved in advancing pro-clean energy policies—from the level of technical specificity to the systemic “big picture” view. Few other organizations possess both the industry-wide breadth of knowledge and the highly specialized expertise and relationship networks needed to navigate diverse venues, states, markets, and policy arenas successfully. With another year full of exciting developments, achievements, and growth soon coming to a close, we are looking forward to 2024.
Our continuing work to envision and lay the foundations of a new American clean energy economy—by focusing on complex, interwoven issues like siting and permitting, interconnection, grid readiness, transmission, and so much more—is made possible through the support of our strategic collaborators, industry members, and generous philanthropic partners. Thank you for standing with us.
The mission of Advanced Energy Institute is to raise awareness of the public benefits and opportunities of advanced energy. Advanced Energy Institute and its affiliate Advanced Energy United, have a shared vision of a prosperous world that runs on secure, clean, affordable energy.At Advanced Energy United and Advanced Energy Institute, we are committed to the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice across our organization. We also incorporate these values into our mission to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy in the United States. We know that varied perspectives and a commitment to social justice are needed to succeed in making the United States an advanced energy economy. In order to ensure that our work is representative of the needs of the diverse communities we seek to serve and to achieve long-term stability for our endeavors, we are committed to building diverse teams who can lead on these issues.
We commit to building and supporting an inclusive workforce that represents different cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints.
We welcome every person who brings a unique perspective to advance our mission.
We count on authenticity.
We expect commitment to the mission and to each other.