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May 21, 2024 Editor's Column

Editor’s Column

Timothy L. McHugh

Welcome to this edition of Infrastructure, where our lead article delves into the transformative shifts and challenges facing America’s electric transmission grid. As your Editor, I’m excited to share insights and foster discussions on topics that stand at the forefront of regulatory and technological evolution.

In this issue, Troutman Pepper partner Andy Flavin and senior associate John Sample analyze evolving electric transmission siting challenges and offer a comprehensive look into the future of our energy infrastructure. The authors’ exploration into the current state and future needs of the US electric transmission grid is both timely and urgent. With the United States at a pivotal moment in its energy transition, the need to expand and rebuild our electric transmission infrastructure has never been more apparent. This necessity is driven by several key factors: the push toward clean energy mandates, the aging state of our current infrastructure, the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), growing cybersecurity concerns, and the expansion of data centers.

As a society, our reliance on electric power is at an all-time high, yet the path to a more efficient and resilient grid is fraught with challenges. John and Andy point out that while the need for growth is recognized at both state and federal levels, obstacles such as funding shortages, congested siting approval processes, and a lack of coordination have hindered progress. These barriers not only slow down the transition to clean energy but also pose risks to the reliability and security of our electric supply.

The drive toward clean energy, underscored by the adoption of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Clean Energy Standard (CES) policies across numerous states, necessitates a grid capable of integrating intermittent renewable resources like wind and solar power. This integration is crucial for balancing supply and demand and ensuring the grid’s reliability. Furthermore, the aging infrastructure, with 70 percent of transmission lines at over 25 years old, underscores the urgency for significant investments to modernize our grid.

The electrification of transportation, marked by the increasing adoption of EVs, adds another layer of complexity to the grid’s demands. Not only must the grid accommodate the growing need for charging infrastructure, but it also must adapt to the potential of EVs to offer grid support services and store excess electricity.

The authors’ analysis does not stop at identifying challenges; it also looks toward solutions and proposed legislation aimed at overcoming these obstacles. Their work emphasizes the importance of making current processes more efficient and productive, a goal that is both ambitious and essential for our collective energy future.

As we consider the broader societal and regulatory impacts of these issues over the coming decade and beyond, it’s clear that the path forward requires collaboration, innovation, and a willingness to embrace change. The insights provided by John and Andy not only shed light on the complexities of electric transmission siting but also offer a roadmap for stakeholders at all levels to engage in meaningful action.

Thank you for joining us in this critical discussion. As we navigate America’s changing infrastructure landscape, the work of experts like those featured in this edition of Infrastructure will continue to guide our understanding and shape our approach to building a more resilient, efficient, and clean energy future, among other things. And countless other infrastructural features will likewise be impacted, as I’m sure you, our readers, know all too well.

If you have similarly timely and interesting topics for discussion in these pages, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected] to ­discuss. inf

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Timothy L. McHugh