Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Pat Wood III urged Congress to provide economic incentives for transmission development by changing the accelerated depreciation from 20 years to 15 years for electric transmission assets.

Wood gave his testimony Wednesday for a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing to investigate the Aug. 14 blackout.

Wood said that transmission capital investments and maintenance expenditures have steadily declined. “We must change this pattern. We also must improve the grid management tools available to control center staff by adding, e.g., new digital switches, additional monitoring and metering equipment and better communication equipment.”

There is no direct federal authority or responsibility for the reliability of the transmission grid, Wood said. “The Federal Power Act contains only limited authorities on reliability. Since the electric industry began, reliability has been primarily the responsibility of the customer’s local utility.”

Wood addressed specifically the legislation that Congress is considering enacting to promote reliability in the wholesale power markets. He said the legislation should provide for a system of mandatory reliability rules established and enforced by a reliability organization subject to Commission oversight.

H.R. 6 endorses the formation of regional transmission organizations. “Congress can direct this effort to be completed,” Wood said.

The bill also “appropriately provides greater legal certainty for the Commission’s effort to adopt rate incentives for transmission or other investment to alleviate congestion on the grid, including new transmission technologies,” he said.

Wood maintained that Congress should also provide FERC with backstop transmission siting authority for certain backbone transmission lines, in the event a state or local entity does not have the authority to act or does not act in a timely manner.