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Energy Transmission

By the Numbers

  • 7, 200: Megawatts of renewable energy development being facilitated by WRA's electricity grid work by 2020
  • 2 Million: Number of homes that could be powered by 7,200 megawatts of renewable energy development
  • 100,000: Megawatts of new renewable energy & 10,000 miles of power lines:  Estimates established by WRA and partners to replace dirty energy with carbon free energy to meet science-based emission reduction goals
  • 100: Number of geospatial natural resource data sets in a new planning tool to guide responsible power line development.  WRA led creation of this important tool
  • 80: Number of policies used to develop WRA led future power grid configurations for 11 Western states

Doing Transmission Right

Smart Lines Improving America's transmission infrastructure is essential for a number of reasons:

In order to accelerate the approval of renewable energy projects in need of transmission access and direct transmission projects to the right locations, Western Resource Advocates developed Smart Lines, a set of transmission guidelines and principles that are at the core of sound and smart-from-the-start transmission planning for renewable energy sources. The full Smart Lines report is now available as a .pdf document (3.6KB).

The four tenets of Smart Lines are:

  1. Efficiency First: Employ demand-side management to reduce the amount of energy needed.
  2. Maximize the existing grid.
  3. Connect to clean and renewable energy resources.  The old grid was designed with fossil-fueled energy in mind.
  4. Ensure long-lasting protection for public lands and wildlife resources.


The current grid was designed to transmit energy from fossil-fuel burning power plants. These engines of climate change emit massive amounts of greenhouse gasses and have negative consequences on human and environmental health. The grid of the future must effectively integrate this nation's wealth of renewable energy, and conversion to renewable energy sources is being mandated in states across the West through renewable portfolio standards.

Transmission projects that facilitate renewable energy, however, cannot receive a blank check of approval.  Proper planning for siting new transmission lines is critically important to direct both renewable energy development and supporting transmission to the least environmentally sensitive areas in the West. Otherwise, new transmission can have negative effects on endangered species, habitat, and iconic western landscapes and recreation areas.  This must be taken into account in the planning process.

The Western Governors Association has identified lack of transmission for new energy sources as one of the most significant problems facing the region.  But new power lines must be “smart lines” to ensure that new transmission moves the western U.S. to a forward-thinking and balanced energy policy fitting for the 21st Century.

Why Talk About Transmission?

A forward-thinking energy policy for the West includes investments in energy efficiency and locally-produced generation such as rooftop solar that do not require long-distance transmission. However, these resources alone will not be sufficient to meet future or current energy needs. In order to make strides in the fight against climate change, large-scale renewable energy projects are an essential component of a balanced energy policy for the West. However, the best places in the West for these large-scale renewable projects lack sufficient transmission access. So we need to talk about transmission – and actively participate in its planning – in a smart and thoughtful way.  If we don’t, it will be difficult to achieve the many benefits of the new energy economy. 

For more information, please contact Gary Graham, Transmission Project Director by email or by phone at 303.444.1188 x244