The great lack of transmission infrastructure in the United States is bad for Americans. It leaves people vulnerable to power outages due to extreme weather events. It raises costs, and leaves Americans paying more on delivery. It also hinders the growth of America’s abundant energy sources and related jobs.

Familiarity with the electrical system of the United States is fundamental to understanding the enormous benefits of electrical transmission. The US network is divided into three giant networks: East, West, and Texas (ERCOT); The giant networks are divided into 11 regional networks, which in turn are further subdivided into smaller local networks. The latter uses low voltage distribution lines to transmit electricity to homes and businesses. Low-capacity regional transmission lines transfer power from power sources to local networks, and high-capacity transmission lines transfer power between regional networks and supernets. This is the point where things fall apart; We simply do not have enough of these high capacity interregional lines to keep our electricity reliable and affordable.

Extreme weather events are increasingly threatening the security and reliability of American energy. Recent studies have shown that weather-related accidents have caused more than 80 percent of power outages since 2000. A severe weather event can cause a grid crisis by increasing grid demand during a supply outage.

These extreme weather events have highlighted the fragility of our electrical grid. Instead, a resilient and reliable grid can bring in energy from another area that doesn’t experience the same severe weather.

Many Americans live in areas that lack the transportation lines needed to give them this security. There is no better example of this than the days of blackouts in Texas caused by winter storm Yuri. In February 2021, the state’s poor network and lack of transportation links to other areas played a significant role in the premature deaths of more than 246 Texans. Reports following the storm estimated that more than 4.5 million people were without electricity and related damages at more than $195 billion. Without the ability to bring in additional energy through a robust network of transmission lines, entire regions within the United States could be subject to similar fates. Building more transmission lines not only protects against weather events, but also provides tangible economic benefits on a daily basis.

More relocation means more jobs for American workers, economic growth for American industry, and more money in banks for American families. A lack of transportation and high energy costs strain the average American family. Electricity bills across the country now average roughly $137 per month[1]– 3% of the average wage earned by the family.[2] Transportation infrastructure can reduce these costs by connecting more Americans to cheap and abundant energy sources. Building more transmission lines to access low-cost, clean energy generation could reduce average household electricity bills by $300 per year.

Transportation also provides Americans with honest pay for honest work. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that an overall 20-mile transmission line will create 114 construction jobs and two maintenance jobs. Specifically, analysis of a 180-mile transmission line from Wyoming to Colorado indicates that it will create 500 construction jobs and 70 maintenance jobs. Given the dynamic growth in the energy sector, particularly in the development of wind and solar energy, some analysts predict job growth of more than 1.5 million jobs only in transportation and another 7.5 million jobs across the entire energy sector by 2050.

Transportation helps drive economic growth throughout our economy, too. The TransWest Express Transmission Project is expected to generate up to $9.5 billion over the next 50 years in the Mountain West region alone. Other, more comprehensive portfolios in the Great Lakes region and along the Mississippi River could reap up to $74.8 billion in economic benefits.

Adequate power transmission infrastructure provides cheap, clean energy to more Americans. The United States is fortunate to have abundant energy resources, including geothermal energy, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, high-value solar energy in the American Southwest, and torrential winds in the Midwest and Plains states that can keep the lights on at low costs with limited pollution. . Unfortunately, our electricity grid lacks the ability to deliver this power across the country.

The United States must build a robust transmission network to take advantage of these vast energy reserves. We’re already producing cheap energy that gets trapped, and isn’t able to benefit American families, businesses, and industry. Once generated, electricity must be used or wasted. If there is no transmission capacity available to deliver electricity to the consumer, producers must “sell” the energy at a negative price. Building more transportation infrastructure in these areas of regular negative prices would allow that cheap energy to flow into homes and businesses in nearby areas. Not only will this immediately lower energy prices for these customers, but the stable revenues of energy producers will also drive more investment in energy development, creating more abundant energy and driving prices further down.

Transportation brings great benefits to our country. It enhances energy security against weather events and other threats, lowers costs, boosts economic prosperity, and unlocks massive sources of clean, low-cost, American-made energy. Building more transmission infrastructure would expand these benefits to many Americans and ensure that the disasters brought on by the winter storm do not turn into a recurring national nightmare.


[1]The average monthly energy bill is estimated using 2021 usage rates per month and multiplied by the July 2022 price of kWh: 886 kWh/month x 15.16 cents/kWh = $136.97 per month.

[1] Take home is calculated using the median household income in the United States as of 2021 and using an online home pay calculator.

FRED data: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA672N

Tax Calculator: https://smartasset.com/taxes/paycheck-calculator#fQvyoLIkqi

Image credit: iStock

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