WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today made the following opening statement at a full committee hearing to discuss the need to develop transmission capacity for renewable electricity technologies:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing on an issue that many see as the single largest impediment to the development of renewable energy – the lack of available transmission capacity to bring alternative energy resources online.
In my 36 years in the Senate, I’ve worked hard to further the development of alternative energy. We’ve invested literally billions of dollars for research and development of renewable technologies like wind, biomass and solar, with billions more to come.
In 2005, I was proud to help pass some of the largest tax credits for renewable energy technology in history, and there’s widespread agreement that they should be continued. Unfortunately, the Majority is insisting on raising taxes to offset these extenders – with another attempt this afternoon-- even though Congress has never had to specifically offset tax credits for the renewable industry since the credits were first established in 1992. These tax credits are important enough to be extended without offsets—and the Senate has already done so this year-- because they spur development in the clean technology sector and act as a stimulus to our economy.
Over the past several weeks, I have talked at length about my vision for our energy future. The good news is that there is widespread bipartisan agreement on how to address energy issues in the long-term. In the short-term, we don’t always see eye-to-eye. I believe that America must build a bridge to a secure energy future by increasing production of our own resources – offshore, in Alaska, and where we have oil shale. By taking these steps, we will show the rest of the world that we are no longer content to rely on foreign countries for oil.
Increased domestic production, however, is just a bridge that will sustain us until we have developed new technologies. It is important that we understand exactly what it will take to make sure we are ready for it when it is available, particularly when it comes to our infrastructure. That is the purpose of today’s hearing.
By 2030, the Energy Information Administration projects a 30% increase in U.S. electricity demand – an estimate that assumes significant efforts to improve energy efficiency and demand response. However, with only a 6.8% growth in total transmission line miles since 1996, our nation’s infrastructure development is simply not keeping pace with system demands.
With passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress sought to tackle the difficult issue of siting needed transmission lines. We directed DOE to study the country’s transmission constraints and designate transmission corridors in areas of severe congestion. Importantly, we provided FERC with backstop siting authority to counter NIMBY opposition to interstate lines. These are significant federal authorities aimed at ensuring adequate transmission and yet, since its enactment and before they have even been fully implemented, these provisions has been attacked by numerous interest groups, some members of Congress, and even one of the federal Commissioners.
All of our witnesses here today have wrestled with the thorny transmission issues – from planning and siting, to cost-allocation, to the integration of intermittent resources. I look forward to hearing from our panelists about these efforts, especially those engaged in regional and collaborative processes.
Again, thank you Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing. I look forward to today’s testimony.