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Biden administration creates new rule to speed up clean energy transmission

The Department of Energy finally streamlines permitting requests and requires only one environmental impact statement for each project.

Solar panels with electricity pylon and sunset.

Transmission lines carrying renewable energy. Photo: Shutterstock/lovelyday12

The U.S. Department of Energy will become a "one-stop-shop" for permits for new electricity transmission projects under a rule announced by the Biden administration. The move is intended to make building green energy projects simpler and faster, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters.

The rule will create a new program, the Coordinated Interagency Transmission Authorization and Permits (CITAP), which will be the lead agency handling permits for new energy projects. Applicants will have to prepare only a single environmental impact statement for all their federal authorizations. The federal government will be required to respond to applications within a fixed deadline.

That’s a marked difference from the current process, which requires a wide range of permits from a variety of agencies, depending on the specific project.

"CITAP is going to make the federal permitting process for transmission infrastructure more efficient and effective," said Granholm. CITAP will help energy infrastructure builders meet the 91 gigawatts of demand growth expected in the next decade

CITAP will work in three ways: 

  1. It positions DOE as the main point of contact between developers and federal agencies.
  2. It enforces a two-year deadline that sets a binding schedule for federal agencies to issue all authorizations and permits.
  3. It requires all applicants to submit a public engagement plan that demonstrates how projects will affect Tribes, local communities and other stakeholders affected by new transmission lines.

"This is a huge improvement from the status quo, because developers routinely have to navigate several independent permitting processes throughout the federal government," said Granholm.

"Implementing a one-stop-shop for agency reviews and setting strict deadlines for this process will represent a fundamental leap forward from the current system, which requires applicants to juggle each agency’s timeline separately and can sometimes delay a project by years," said Americans for a Clean Energy Grid executive director Christina Hayes in a statement on the CITAP proposal published in 2023.

The public engagement aspect will address a longtime drag on the renewable energy sector. Local opposition to new wind and solar farms is typically led by a vocal minority, and 30 percent of proposed projects are canceled as a result, according to a survey by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The new rule comes the same day the Department of the Interior marks the activation of the Ten West Link transmission line from Arizona to California — the line will support the transmission of 3,200 megawatts of solar energy.

So far during the Biden administration, private companies have invested $77 billion in clean energy production and transmission.

[Continue the conversation on climate policy at Circularity 24 (May 22-24, Chicago), the leading conference for professionals building the circular economy.]

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