DOE issues final guidance for transmission corridor designation process

Published on December 22, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

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This week, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Grid Deployment Office released final guidance for the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC) designation process.

This critical process will enable DOE to independently identify narrow areas in the country where transmission development is urgently needed. Further, it will allow them to work with affected states, tribes, local communities, and industry to accelerate the development of transmission projects in those areas.

“Improving and expanding national transmission infrastructure is essential to not only meeting President Biden’s clean energy goals, but also to ensuring that people across the country have access to resilient, affordable power,” Maria Robinson, director of the Grid Deployment Office, said. “We have built meaningful, collaborative, and wide-spread stakeholder engagement into our NIETC designation process to make sure we can clearly identify the areas that are the nation’s highest priorities for transmission and bring critical electric infrastructure there first.”

Building and expanding transmission often requires several years of permitting, siting, and regulatory processes, especially if the line extends through multiple states and regions. The Federal Power Act authorizes the Secretary of Energy to designate any geographic area as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC) if the Secretary finds that consumers are harmed by a lack of transmission in the area and that the development of new transmission would advance important national interests in that area.

The NIETC designations will be based on several factors. Among them, the findings from the National Transmission Needs Study, DOE’s triennial state-of-the-grid report and public input gained through early collaboration with affected states, Tribes, local communities, industry, and stakeholders.

Further, an NIETC designation unlocks key Federal financing and permitting tools to advance transmission deployment. These include public-private partnerships through the Transmission Facilitation Program and direct loans through the Transmission Facility Financing Program. On the permitting side, NIETC designation allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue permits for the siting of transmission lines within a NIETC under certain circumstances where state siting authorities do not have authority to site the line, have not acted on an application for over a year, or have denied an application.

The guidance issued this week outlines a four-phase process to assist the DOE in independently identifying potential NIETCs. During the process, DOE plans to:

1. Collect information on narrow geographic areas where NIETC designation may be particularly valuable;
2. Publish a preliminary list of potential NIETC designations and collect more detailed information and feedback concentrated on the preliminary list;
3. Complete any needed environmental and other reviews, conduct robust public engagement, and publish one or more draft NIETC designation reports and environmental documents; and
4. Conclude by publishing one or more final NIETC designation reports and environmental documents.

The guidance released today opens the first window for public submission of information and recommendations on NIETC designation. This window will remain open until 5:00 p.m. ET on Feb. 2, 2024. Submissions can be made by emailing [email protected].