Interstate Transmission Challenges for Renewable Energy: A Federalism Mismatch

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This Article discusses current challenges to siting new electric transmission infrastructure to facilitate the growth of renewable energy. In doing so, this Article focuses on recent legal and policy developments at the federal, state, and regional levels with a specific emphasis on states with significant wind energy potential west of the Mississippi River. In many of these jurisdictions, there has been a strong emphasis on increasing renewable energy resources in recent years, particularly wind power. Each state and regional jurisdiction, however, has taken a different approach to connecting those new renewable resources to the transmission grid that is determined by the jurisdiction’s laws governing renewable energy; state and local laws governing the siting of electric transmission lines; the jurisdiction’s relationship to a state or regional transmission grid; and the presence of federal lands in the transmission corridor. The overlapping state, regional, and federal policies at play in siting new transmission to facilitate the growth of renewable energy raises unique federalism challenges. By comparing and contrasting the different jurisdictional approaches and outcomes, this Article is able to analyze the extent to which current statutory and regulatory frameworks for transmission are posing barriers to further renewable energy growth and provides suggestions for policy improvements in this area. This Article ultimately concludes that some federal preemption of state siting authority for interstate transmission lines is desirable but may not be politically feasible at the present time. In the alternative, however, states and regional transmission organizations can take advantage of existing regional structures and cost allocation opportunities to better plan for and site the transmission build out necessary to meet renewable energy goals.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.