ITC Holdings Corp. has praised U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) for completing action on legislation that would take needed steps to modernize America's aging energy infrastructure. The proposal calls for reforms to the primary roadblocks the nation faces in developing a truly modern energy grid including how it plans, pays for and sites needed transmission projects. Specifically, the bill enables the development of an interconnection-wide transmission plan, calls for federal backstop to existing state siting authority and delegates cost-allocation authority to FERC through a rulemaking process.

"This is the first step in the process, but it is a significant one," said Nina Plaushin, Director of Federal and Legislative Affairs at ITC. "By providing proposed reforms to the three key regulatory obstacles to transmission expansion -- planning, siting and cost allocation -- the Committee has set a solid framework for deliberation on these critical issues and moved the debate forward considerably. By acting on this legislation, the Committee has demonstrated its commitment to a robust transmission grid that can meet the nation's energy and environmental goals. There is agreement that there is a problem and now we are tasked with the challenging job of coming up with workable solutions.

ITC said that a modern grid, including a high-voltage backbone, will increase reliability across the system, allow the country to take full advantage of renewable energy resources and save the economy billions of dollars each year through access to lower cost power and reduced congestion charges.

ITC supports the broad initiatives in the bill including: using existing regional planning processes, but requiring that an interconnection-wide plan be developed; allowing states to continue to determine where transmission lines are routed, but having a mechanism in place should states fail to site needed facilities; and allowing for a process to consider broad allocation of transmission costs.

ITC is optimistic that, as the legislation moves forward, the cost allocation provisions will be strengthened.

"Members who have opposed broader cost allocation policies have expressed concern that their states only pay for specific transmission projects from which they receive significant benefits," said Plaushin. "The irony here is that by doing nothing we are ensuring that those who benefit don't pay. Wind-rich states are forced to pay an unfair share of costs to upgrade the transmission system to move power to other states where it is used. The entire cost allocation process we have today has a chilling effect not just on transmission expansion, but on the development of renewable resources as well. It has to be fixed."

ITC has long advocated for modernizing America's overburdened electricity grid and recently announced the development of its "Green Power Express," a network of extra high voltage transmission lines that will transport power from wind-abundant areas of the Upper Midwest to Midwestern and Eastern states that demand clean, renewable energy. The Green Power Express will be an integral component to ITC's efforts to create a high-voltage backbone that can meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid.

"The Green Power Express is a project that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance system reliability and reduce costs to customers through access to high-capacity, low-cost wind power," noted President of ITC Grid Development, Edward Rahill. "The legislation proposed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee recognizes the benefits of unleashing private investment so that we can develop these kinds of projects."

The Committee is expected to have a final vote on a comprehensive energy package, including transmission provisions, before Memorial Day.