DOE Focusing on Expanding National Transmission

In early May, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Deployment Office (GDO) issued a Notice of Intent (“NOI”) to establish a process to designate “route-specific” National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs). “Through this process, DOE intends to invite interested entities to propose for designation as a NIETC a potential route where one or more potential transmission projects could be located within a geographic area where the Department has identified transmission need(s) (i.e., present or expected electric transmission capacity constraints or congestion that adversely affects consumers) and where the Department has made other statutory findings,” said DOE.

Interested entities will be required to provide information about the potential route necessary to fulfill the statutory criteria for designation, as well as certain environmental information about the potential route to facilitate DOE’s ability to efficiently complete its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).

DOE is also issuing a Request for Information (“RFI”) with its NOI to gather input to inform the development of future application guidance and procedures for entities seeking to propose a route as an NIETC, as well as the development of information DOE will request in order to evaluate proposals.

DOE plans to issue final application guidance concurrent with the finalization of the National Transmission Needs Study (“Needs Study”), anticipated to be released in late summer of 2023.

DOE anticipates that, generally, routes proposed for potential designation as an NIETC may be associated with specific transmission projects under active development, meaning that a potential applicant has progressed beyond the preliminary concept and has begun actively routing the project and engaging in community and landowner outreach, land surveys, or initiation of environmental compliance work.

As such, DOE intends to designate NIETCs that are “route-specific,” meaning they encompass narrow areas that are under consideration for the location of specific potential project(s), and which are sufficient for the construction, maintenance, and safe operation thereof in accordance with any applicable regulatory requirements.

“Designation of a NIETC does not constitute selection of or a preference for a specific transmission project for financial, siting, or industry planning purposes; selection for
these other purposes will continue to occur through established planning and regulatory
processes,” said the DOE.

DOE is considering this process for designating NIETCs in recognition of the fact that such designations would occur in areas experiencing the greatest need for immediate
transmission development and would unlock new financing and regulatory tools to spur investment in those areas. The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) and Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) contain new public-private partnership and loan authorities that DOE can use to spur construction of transmission projects in NIETCs.

NIETCs may encompass areas where multiple transmission projects could be located, providing an opportunity to coordinate environmental reviews and improve the efficiency and timeliness of permitting of these projects. “DOE will, as appropriate, consult from an early stage with Federal, Tribal, State, and local authorities responsible for transmission siting and/or permitting on potential NIETC designation to develop appropriate and efficient timelines for decision-making,” said the DOE.

DOE intends to develop final guidelines and procedures for interested entities to propose that DOE designate a NIETC. In this NOI, DOE identifies certain key program design elements that it believes should form the basis of an applicant-driven, route-specific process to designate NIETCs.

In an accompanying RFI, DOE seeks comments from the public and interested parties on these identified program elements and any additional program elements that should be included to assist in developing final guidelines, procedures, and evaluation criteria for the applicant-driven, route-specific NIETC designation process.


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