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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

Bill Gates Urges U.S.: Fix Key Power Transmission Issues

To clear the way for clean energy all over the United States, Bill Gates wrote in his Gates Notes that the government needs to address the three main barriers that are to blame for the lack of progress.

Photo Insert: Gates at the Breakthrough Energy Summit

"First is planning. Like all infrastructure projects, new transmission lines and grid upgrades start with planning. Plans are usually based on near-term energy use forecasts or even backward-looking data—which means new lines aren’t being built with future needs in mind. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, has recently proposed a rule that would require transmission providers to do longer-term and more forward-looking planning and coordination."

"Second is paying. The federal government determines how large-scale infrastructure improvements are funded—either via tax payments or through allocating cost to consumers. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021 invested some money in transmission projects, but we need to invest more on the federal level while also making it more affordable for local authorities to undertake new projects."

"Third is permitting. Although the federal government determines who pays for most transmission upgrades, states are primarily the ones who issue permits for new projects. The current permitting process is long, convoluted, and often outdated,” Gates argued.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Gates said that, while transmission is primarily a policy problem, innovation will help too. Grid-enhancing technologies like dynamic line ratings, power flow controls, and topology optimization could increase the capacity of the existing system.

“Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is part of the climate initiative I helped start, has invested in new technologies like advanced conductors and superconductors—wires that use cutting-edge materials to get more energy out of smaller lines. But these technologies aren’t a substitute for real systemic improvements and building lines in places where they don’t already exist,” Gates concluded.

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