Grid in Peril: The Transmission Crisis and its Effects on National Security

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Graphic promoting the next Grid in Peril webinar on January 11, 2024.

Register now for the second webinar in the Grid in Peril webinar series by SAFE’s Grid Security Project. This series looks at the challenges facing the United States’ power grid as the country reindustrializes and electrifies its transportation system.

Panel Discussion:

• Representative Paul Tonko, (D-NY20)

• Christina Hayes, Executive Director, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG)

• Jeff Dennis, Head of Transmission, DOE Grid Deployment Office

• Thomas Coleman (moderator), Director, SAFE’s Grid Security Project

The United States’ electric transmission system is not keeping up with the increased demand on our power grid and currently has a backlog of more than 2 terawatts (TW) of new power generation that is unable to move to the places that need it. Increased demand for power will require not only increased power generation but also a modernized transmission network to carry that power to homes and businesses without interruption.

Our current grid, due to outdated transmission infrastructure, remains susceptible to further challenges and risks that affect our national and economic security.

The Department of Energy’s recent Transmission Needs Study finds that investment in transmission has been declining in the United States. This trend, along with the increase in cyber and physical attacks, threatens national and economic security.

Demand is increasing as the United States grows and reindustrializes its economy while rapidly electrifying the vehicle fleet and investing in increasingly energy-intensive industries such as artificial intelligence research and development and data centers.

Incremental transmission capacity is imperative but faces significant permitting obstacles and regulatory barriers.

A lack of Interregional transfer capability does not allow for the movement of power between areas across the country, worsening critical events as we experienced during Winter Storms Uri and Elliott.

Abundant, affordable, and reliable sources of electricity—and an accompanying expansion of transmission infrastructure—are a national security requirement, but our current policies are inadequate to address these known risks. A candid assessment of challenges and opportunities, and a fresh dialogue between industry and government, is needed to break the stalemate.

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Representative Paul Tonko, (D-NY20)

Congressman Paul D. Tonko is an eighth-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York’s 20th Congressional District in the Capital Region, including the cities of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga Springs.

He has dedicated his career in public service to bettering the lives of those in his district with meaningful legislation that creates good jobs, strengthens the middle class, and drives economic opportunity.

Tonko is the Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, & Critical Materials. In addition to serving on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security, and Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, he is also a member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Along with his committee duties, Tonko co-chairs the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), and the Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery (ATR) Caucus.

Prior to serving in Congress, he was the president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Before that, he served in the New York State Assembly for 25 years, serving for 15 years as Chairman of the Committee on Energy.

Tonko graduated from Clarkson University with a degree in mechanical and industrial engineering and is a former engineer for the New York State Public Service Commission.

Christina Hayes, Executive Director, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG)

Christina Hayes is the Executive Director of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. She previously served as Vice President for Federal Regulatory Affairs at Berkshire Hathaway Energy and has been an energy regulatory attorney for nearly 20 years, helping Midwestern and Western utilities navigate FERC, NERC, and other federal agencies.

Prior to joining BHE, Christina was an attorney with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, serving in the office of general counsel, the western division of the office of energy market regulation, and as an advisor to Chairman Wellinghoff. While at FERC, Christina worked on a variety of issues, from transmission development to mergers and market power issues to credit reforms in organized markets. A native Oregonian, Christina has also served as an administrative law judge at the Public Utility Commission of Oregon, presiding over mergers, rate cases, and rulemakings, advising state commissioners, and drafting final decisions.

Jeff Dennis, Head of Transmission, DOE Grid Deployment Office

Jeff Dennis is the Deputy Director for Transmission at the Grid Deployment Office (GDO). Jeff leads GDO’s Transmission Division, which facilitates transmission deployment, supports robust transmission planning, and addresses transmission siting and permitting challenges to ensure grid reliability and resilience.

Prior to joining GDO, Jeff was General Counsel and Managing Director at Advanced Energy Economy (now Advanced Energy United), where he co-founded and later led its programs aimed at increasing wholesale electricity market access for advanced energy technologies and transforming wholesale electricity market designs and transmission policies to support the energy transition. Under his leadership, the reach of the organization’s wholesale markets, and transmission program expanded rapidly, with staff and funding more than tripling. Jeff also provided legal advice and counsel to the organization’s federal and state programs and served as Corporate Secretary.

Earlier in his career, Jeff spent over a decade at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), holding senior legal and policy positions including Director of Policy Development and Legal Advisor to Commissioner John R. Norris. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of landmark FERC rules and orders on transmission planning, transmission cost allocation, and wholesale electricity market design. He also defended FERC’s decisions in the United States Courts of Appeals, arguing numerous cases before the D.C. Circuit.

Jeff also has been a lawyer in private practice representing a wide range of private and public energy sector clients in proceedings before FERC, state public utility commissions, and in the courts.

In addition to his work in GDO, Jeff is Chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, and serves on the Editorial Board of the Energy Law Journal, and on the faculty of the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. He is a frequent author and speaker on topics in energy policy and law.

Moderated by Thomas Coleman, Executive Director, SAFE’s Grid Security Project

Thomas Coleman is Executive Director of SAFE’s Grid Security Project.

Prior to SAFE, he was the Chief Technical Advisor at NERC, where he worked with industry and stakeholders to assess, report on, and provide recommendations to ensure the reliability of the North American Bulk Power System. Mr. Coleman led the efforts around NERC’s natural gas risk strategy and was the NERC lead for NERC’s Electric Gas Working Group. He also led initiatives for the NERC Reliability Issues Steering Committee, identifying and providing solution sets for grid reliability and security risks as well as efforts around long term, short term and historical reliability assessments. Mr. Coleman joined NERC in 2014. Before joining NERC, Mr. Coleman traded power and natural gas commodities and directed long term origination at JP Morgan and Williams Energy.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida and his MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Road to the Summit

This panel discussion will set the stage for a larger conversation with industry leaders about the growing need for investment in transmission infrastructure as a matter of economic and national security that will take place at SAFE Summit 2024: Solving the Global Power Puzzle on March 12—13 in Washington, D.C.

SAFE Summit 2024 will provide an opportunity for the global community of energy, transportation, and supply chain leaders to encounter cutting edge ideas, discover new ways of thinking, and to network with other professionals working towards the same goal of shaping policies that advance the economic and national security of the United States, its partners, and allies.

Click below to see confirmed speakers, the program, and more details.

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