Can we simplify permitting by companies for energy products and infrastructure

Published 11:03 am Friday, January 20, 2023

BY NORMA MORRISON
In the Elizabethton Star, 1/11/23, Our View mentioned that “…there is increasing research into how the Polar Vortex is being impacted by climate change.” Here is one step we can take that Republican and Democrats can embrace because it promotes economic and job growth in clean energy.
Tennessee is already realizing efforts to increase electric vehicle manufacturing, charging station installations, and help for low income families in making homes more energy efficient, but more needs to be done.
• These jobs and economic benefits are expected to expand because of the clean energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, which is intended to help the U.S. cut its carbon pollution about 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.
• In addition to jobs, the clean energy transition will help to stabilize our climate and ward off the worsening impact of climate change caused by heat-trapping gases. Some of the climate impacts in our area include drought/fires, flooding, and extreme winds and rain like the event we experienced on January 12.
These economic and climate benefits are likely to be delayed because the process for approving energy projects and infrastructure is burdensome and long. For example, new transmission lines are needed to move clean energy from wind and solar generated in rural areas to urban areas where it is needed. Building a new transmission line takes over a decade because of the current permitting process. This shouldn’t be an issue and needs to be corrected. Additionally, expansion of electricity transmission is currently one percent a year. At that pace, an analysis from Princeton finds that by 2030, only 20% of the emissions reductions expected from the Inflation Reduction Act will be realized. This is a waste of valuable resources and time.
• An unintended consequence of the transmission bottleneck is that we will have to burn more coal to meet the increased demand for electricity resulting from incentives for households to purchase EVs, heat pumps, induction stoves, etc. If the permitting process does not speed up, the Princeton study estimates the U.S. will burn 25% more coal by 2030 than if clean energy incentives had now been implemented. Additional coal burning would lead to thousands more premature deaths and hospitalizations from respiratory disease.
• To realize the economic benefits of the clean-energy transition, preserve a livable climate and protect our health, we must speed up the permitting process for energy projects and infrastructure.
I believe that with faster and more streamlined clean energy projects that would increase in Tennessee, TVA would be more inclined to replace their coal burning stations with cleaner energy sources and all of us would greatly benefit.
(Norma Morrison is a volunteer with the Northeast Tennessee chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.)

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