Consultant hired to reconsider need for new transmission line

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Will the combination of a deep economic slowdown, coupled with improvements in energy efficiency, preclude the need for a new $250 million high-voltage electric transmission line across Dane County?

It's a question some are asking as more factories close at the same time President Obama is calling for a greening of the nation's century-old electric system.

Last week, the Madison City Council approved hiring a consultant to study the economics of a new 345-kilovolt transmission line and to determine whether it is warranted. The city previously hired a consultant to study putting the line underground or somewhere other than along the Beltline highway as proposed.

"Certainly you'd like to see industrial activity pick up while we also make improvements in efficiencies," says east side Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway. "But the fact that Obama is talking about a 'smart grid' enables us to maybe gain traction for some alternatives."

Part of the more than $800 billion economic stimulus package working its way through Congress focuses on improving energy efficiency and using technology to conserve power. This includes everything from individual meters, which peg electric charges to the time of day, to motion-sensitive switches that turn lights on and off as people enter or leave a room.

Energy advocates have also talked about "distributed generation," or the concept of having smaller on-site power generators at individual factories or businesses versus the traditional system of high-voltage lines connected to a large power plant in a distant location.