Corporations Seek Expanded Transmission for Renewables in US

transmission renewables United States General Motors Walmart

Major corporations are requesting expanded transmission lines in the United States that can deliver renewable power to their facilities. Leaders from General Motors and Walmart told Bloomberg Environment this week that they need the new transmission in order to meet their ambitious goals, and to keep costs down in the future.

“For us to continue to find projects that fit our needs, which is providing low-cost price-stable wind and solar, we need to be able to interconnect those assets to a grid,” Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global manager of renewable energy, said in an interview with Bloomberg Environment.

Threlkeld added that although some of the automaker’s facilities in Texas and Kansas are located near high wind power production areas, GM will require additional transmission lines for operations in other areas.

Likewise, Walmart is seeking new transition in order to purchase more renewable power. The company generates about half of the renewable energy it uses from solar panels and wind turbines built at its stores and other facilities, Bloomberg Environment’s Bobby Magill reported.

Last year the number of influential companies joining the RE100 global initiative and committing publicly to sourcing all of their electricity from renewable sources surpassed 100. However, accessing affordable clean energy has been challenging in the US due largely to state policies. A 2017 David Gardiner and Associates report found that global manufacturers — including GM, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Mars — are encountering legal and policy barriers.

More recently, a January 16 report from the Wind Energy Foundation concluded that transportation planners are not taking the growing corporate demand into account for the future. In a low-demand procurement scenario, planned transmission build-outs would only meet 78% of the demand, the report concluded. That drops to 42% in a high-procurement scenario.

Corporations are pushing for changes. “Increasingly, utilities are working closely with corporations looking to source renewable energy through such mechanisms as green tariffs, beyond just power purchase agreements,” Threlkeld told Energy Manager Today earlier this week. The next step, he says, is to work with regional transmission operators. GM and others are doing just that through the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, which works with the RE100. Whether they will successfully shift future plans remains to be seen.

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