Western Governors Unveil 10-Year Energy Vision

The Chairman of the Western Governors' Association (WGA), Governor Gary Herbert of Utah, recently announced the publication of its 10 Year Energy Vision. The aspirational document outlines several broad goals and objectives "on which the governors all agree: achieving energy security; generating clean, affordable and reliable energy from a diversified portfolio of energy sources; increasing energy efficiency; having sufficient and reliable infrastructure; protecting wildlife, the environment and natural resources, and making the West the leader in energy education and innovation."

The vision establishes six over-arching goals while also preserving state jurisdictional authority and the unique characteristics of its populations and resources; those goals are:

  • Put the U.S. on a path towards energy security
  • Promote clean, affordable, and reliable energy by providing a balance of traditional and renewable energy resources
  • Increase energy productivity associated with electricity and natural gas
  • Establish distribution systems that promote the siting and permitting of energy infrastructure like electric transmission lines and pipelines that also protect natural resources and wildlife
  • Protect Western wildlife, natural resources, and the environment
  • Make the West an international leader in energy education and in the development of cutting-edge technology.

The plan was well-received by some non-profit groups, including Utah Clean Energy. The group's executive director was quoted in the Deseret News, "By prioritizing energy efficiency as the cornerstone of any energy strategy, the Western Governors Association’s 10-Year Energy Vision includes a common-sense approach to meeting our growing energy demand, creating jobs and saving Utahns money, all while reducing our carbon footprint." 

One area of particular attention mentioned by WGA, energy infrastructure siting/planning, dovetails with existing work currently underway at CSG's National Center for Interstate Compacts on the siting of interstate electric transmission lines.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) so-called ‘backstop authority’ to site transmission lines should states be unable to agree on routing. The siting projects across multiple states can be incredibly challenging and FERC's back-stop authority has been fiercely contested by some states. Further, the vast amount of recently sited renewable energy projects on public land by the federal government often reside in remote areas of the Western U.S. and need significant amounts of transmission lines to get that power to load centers. The 2005 Energy Policy Act granted states the ability to enter into interstate compact agreements that could limit the federal scope over the siting process as a way to avoid the contentious problems that can arise with FERC's back-stop authority when siting new electric power lines.

Western governors advocated for the following principles when permitting and siting new energy infrastructure:

  • Ensure that interconnection-wide transmission planning is done publicly, at an interconnection-wide level, with the full participation of the states and with consideration of state energy policies.
  • Identify ways of increasing cooperation on interstate projects and evaluate tools that can facilitate cooperation such as interstate compacts.
  • Reduce the time it takes to process completed applications for project permits on public land to no more than three years, without compromising on natural resource, wildlife or environmental values.
  • Modernize and improve grid reliability by working with regional reliability organizations, utilities, developers and public utility commissions.
  • Maintain state and local decision-making authority over transmission line siting and permitting.
  • Strongly encourage, in the absence of private property owners willing to grant easements, federal agencies to allow the placement of electrical transmission lines on public land to the greatest extent possible.
  • Create functional partnerships between states, federal agencies and local jurisdictions to address conflicts and recommend respective solutions across all land agencies and regions, regardless of infrastructure type.
  • Ensure that all federal pipeline safety measures are implemented quickly and efficiently.