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DOE Releases Preliminary List of Potential National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a preliminary list of 10 potential National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors “to accelerate the development of transmission projects in areas that present an urgent need for expanded transmission,” it said on May 8.

DOE also announced minimum eligibility criteria for direct loans under the Transmission Facility Financing (TFF) program. The TFF program can finance the development of billions of dollars of transmission projects in designated NIETCs.

DOE is now seeking public input on both the preliminary list of potential NIETCs and the TFF program application and evaluation process.  

National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law amended the Federal Power Act to clarify the Secretary of Energy’s ability to designate any geographic area as a NIETC if it is determined that consumers are harmed, now or in the future, by a lack of transmission in the area and that the development of new transmission would advance important national interests for that region, such as increased reliability and reduced consumer costs.  

A NIETC designation unlocks federal financing and permitting tools to spur transmission development, including direct loans through the TFF program, public-private partnerships through the Transmission Facilitation Program, and Federal siting and permitting authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in certain limited circumstances. 

Developers and state and local siting authorities may also be able to leverage the environmental analysis conducted by DOE as part of the NIETC designation process to complete local siting and permitting processes, which could ultimately accelerate siting and permitting for transmission projects in these targeted, high-priority areas. 

DOE released final guidance on NIETC designation in December 2023, and initiated a four-phase process by inviting interested parties to suggest specific geographic areas where a NIETC designation may be particularly helpful in advancing transmission to meet significant regional need.

After independent analysis and review of public input, DOE’s preliminary list of potential NIETCs includes 10 narrow geographic areas spanning nine of the regions identified by DOE’s 2023 National Transmission Needs Study.  

DOE said the potential NIETCs: 

  • Include one or more potential transmission projects currently under development whose deployment could be accelerated by the tools unlocked by NIETC designation.
  • Range in width from less than one mile to near 100 miles and in length from 12 to 780 miles. 
  • Often parallel existing rights of way such as state highways and high-voltage transmission lines.
  • Have the potential to facilitate the integration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, including offshore wind generation in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Present the opportunity to increase transmission capacity between the Eastern and Western Interconnections--two otherwise largely disconnected grids.  

The preliminary list includes maps of each potential NIETC. The maps should be viewed as rough approximations. The geographic boundaries of any potential NIETC that continues in the designation process may ultimately differ from what is presented in the preliminary list. The announcement is not designating any final NIETC.

map
Map from DOE

This preliminary list covers the following geographic areas:

  • New York-New England
  • New York-Mid-Atlantic
  • Mid-Atlantic-Canada
  • Mid-Atlantic
  • Midwest-Plains
  • Northern Plains
  • Delta-Plains
  • Plains-Southwest
  • Mountain-Plains-Southwest
  • Mountain-Northwest

The announcement initiates Phase 2 of the NIETC designation process, including opening a 45-day window for public comments on the geographic boundaries and potential impacts of NIETC designation on environmental, community, and other resources.

For example, interested parties may provide information such as the location of wetlands, recreation areas, historic properties, residences, businesses, abandoned mines, and/or croplands. 

The public comment period will close at 5:00 p.m. ET on June 24, 2024. Submissions must be made by emailing [email protected]. There will be an informational webinar on May 16, 2024, at 3:30 p.m. ET. Registration is required

Following Phase 2, DOE will prioritize which potential NIETCs move from the preliminary list to Phase 3, during which DOE will draft NIETC designation reports, conduct environmental reviews, proceed with government-to-government consultation with any impacted Tribal Nations as appropriate, and engage in robust public engagement.

DOE anticipates announcing the narrowed list of potential NIETCs and initiating Phase 3 in the fall of 2024. 

Transmission Facility Financing Program 

The TFF program provides direct loans for eligible transmission projects within a NIETC. The Inflation Reduction Act appropriated $2 billion which may cover the credit subsidy cost of those loans, unlocking billions in total loan volume under the program.

DOE is currently seeking public input on the scope of eligible projects and project financing requirements, including feedback from utilities and project developers that are interested in seeking direct loan support through the program for a specific project in or near one of the potential NIETCs.  

Parties interested in providing comments, including utilities and project developers, are encouraged to contact DOE at [email protected] by July 31, 2024, to register input.

DOE anticipates opening the TFF program in 2025.  

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