The United States’ significant lack of infrastructure is bad for Americans. It leaves people vulnerable to power outages due to extreme weather events. It drives up costs, leaving Americans paying more for the plug. And, it hinders the growth of many of America’s energy resources and related jobs.
Familiarity with the US electrical system is key to understanding the major benefits of electrical transmission. The US grid is divided into three supergrids: East, West, and Texas (ERCOT); supergrids are divided into 11 regional grids, which are themselves divided into smaller regional grids. The latter use low voltage transmission lines to deliver electricity to homes and businesses. Low-capacity local transmission lines carry power from power sources to local grids, and high-capacity transmission lines carry power between local grids and larger grids. That’s where things break down; we don’t have enough of these overhead power lines in the area to keep our electricity reliable and affordable.
Extreme weather events increasingly threaten America’s energy security and reliability. A recent study showed that weather-related events have caused more than 80 percent of lightning strikes since 2000. A severe weather event can cause a grid problem by increasing demand on the grid while supplies are low.
These extreme weather events shine a bright light on the vulnerability of our electricity grid. Alternatively, a robust and reliable grid can bring power from another region that does not face the same climate.
Many Americans live in areas without the transmission lines necessary to provide them with this protection. There is no better example of this than the blackout days in Texas caused by Winter Storm Uri. In February 2021, the state’s compromised grid and lack of transmission connections in some areas played a large role in the premature deaths of more than 246 people in Texas. Reports after the storm estimated that more than 4.5 million people were without power and the associated damage was more than $195 billion. Without the ability to deliver additional power through a robust network of transmission lines, entire regions within the US could be at risk of a similar fate. Building additional transmission lines not only protects against weather events, but also provides tangible economic benefits every day.
More infections mean more jobs for American workers, economic growth for American businesses, and more money in the bank for American families. Shortages of transmission and rising energy costs are stressing the average American family. The average electricity bill across the country is now nearly $137 a month–3 percent of median household income. Transmission infrastructure can reduce these costs by connecting more Americans to cheap and abundant energy sources. Building additional transmission lines to access cheaper clean energy can reduce the average household’s electric bill by $300 per year.
Transfers also provide Americans with honest pay for honest work. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that the 20-mile transmission line will create 114 construction jobs and 2 maintenance jobs. Specifically, an analysis of the 180-mile transmission line from Wyoming to Colorado shows it would create 500 construction jobs and 70 maintenance jobs. Given the dynamic growth in the energy sector, particularly in wind and solar development, some analysts project job growth of more than 1.5 million decentralized jobs and another 7.5 million jobs across the energy sector by 2050.
Exports help drive economic growth throughout our economy. The TransWest Express Transmission Project is expected to generate up to $9.5 billion over the next 50 years in the Mountain-West region alone. Other broad portfolios in the Great Lakes and Mississippi region could reap $74.8 billion in economic benefits.
Adequate transmission infrastructure makes cheap and clean energy available to many Americans. The United States is fortunate to have many energy sources, including geothermal, especially in the Rocky Mountains, high-cost solar in the American Southwest, and large amounts of wind in the Midwest and Plains that can keep the lights on at low cost with little pollution. . Unfortunately, our power grid does not have the capacity to deliver this power across the country.
The US needs to build a strong transmission network to tap into this huge energy reserve. We’re already producing cheap energy that can be captured, which can benefit American homes, businesses, and businesses. Once generated, electricity must be used or wasted. If there is no transmission capacity available to get electricity to the consumer, producers must “sell” the power at a negative price. Building transmission infrastructure in these areas that receive bad rates regularly will allow that low power to travel to homes and businesses in nearby areas. This will not only lower electricity prices for those consumers immediately, but stable profits for power producers will also drive further investment in energy development, creating more power and driving prices down further.
Broadcasting brings great benefits to our country. It strengthens energy security against climate events and other threats, lowers costs, supports economic prosperity, and opens up large sources of clean, low-cost, American-made energy. Building a strong transmission infrastructure will extend these benefits to more Americans and ensure that the disasters that Winter Storm Uri did not become the nation’s worst disaster.
The average monthly energy bill is estimated using the 2021 monthly consumption rates and multiplied by the July 2022 price per kWh: 886 kWh/month x 15.16 cents/kWH = $136.97/month.
 Take-home pay is calculated using the median household income in the United States as of 2021 and using a web-based pay-at-home calculator.
FRED data: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA672N
Tax calculator: https://smartasset.com/taxes/paycheck-calculator#fQvyoLIkqi
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