Wind on the Wires is an organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota launched about a decade ago to focus on wind policy issues and wind transmission line issues. To learn more about some key policy initiatives for 2013, I spoke with Beth Soholt, Executive Director, who was in Des Moines, Iowa during Iowa Wind Energy Day.
The big issue for 2013? “Quite simply its more transmission,” explained Soholt. However, she said, this is a long process. First you have to study where transmission needs to go. You need to study how much transmission is needed for what you want to achieve, and then you have to decide where it’s going to be built. You also have to get somebody who is willing to build it, and this includes convincing them it needs to be built. Once that has been achieved, the project must go through a state regulatory process, and it needs to be funded.
“So the planning piece on what to build and where to build it and the cost recovery piece are two of the big barriers,” said Soholt.
The industry, advocates, think tanks and more banter around numbers in the dozens of billions as the cost to build the needed transmission. But Soholt said that transmission is actually a very small percentage of a consumer’s bill – only about 7 percent. The rest of the bill is to pay from getting the energy from the generator to your house, and other kinds of investments.
Even though this is a relatively small piece of the overall pie, this is what the utilities know how to do, said Soholt.The harder piece is having them include investments for large amounts of renewable energy.
“This is where Wind on the Wires comes in and can sit down with them and educate them in various stakeholder settings,” said Soholt. The organization can put together a package that lots of different kinds of stakeholders can support and they can also address the cost allocation piece, i.e. who should pay? “If we spread out the cost of transmission among a lot of users it becomes a very, very small percentage for everyone,” said Soholt.
While the “road to market” may be a long one, Soholt said utilities need to go ahead and start implementing.
You can learn more about policy issues, the road to market, and next steps for Iowa’s wind energy industry in my full interview with Beth: Key Policy Issue for Wind Industry: More Transmission.
See the 2013 Iowa Wind Energy Day Photo Album.