Rosslyn, Va.-based National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) reiterated its call for policymakers to take action to support the development of the nation’s electric transmission infrastructure, in light of anew study released by WIRES, a nonprofit working group and the voice of electric transmission owners, investors, and customers in the North American energy market. Findings from the study indicate that an annual investment in new electric transmission facilities could reach $12 to $16 billion in the United States. According to the study, this would result in $30 to $40 billion in annual economic activity could create 150,000 to 200,000 new full-time jobs in the United States in each of the next 20 years.

The study highlights what NEMA and the electroindustry has long known: regulatory challenges and other barriers are preventing investment in the smart grid, leaving huge numbers of new jobs on the table. NEMA has outlined the long and arduous process of gaining approval for and beginning construction on new transmission facilities in its brochure "Siting Transmission Corridors—A Real Life Game of Chutes and Ladders".

The brochure first addresses transmission planning and cost allocation, followed by the federal agency approval process, environmental impact statements, state utility commission review, and right-of-way attainment. Only after all these requirements and more are met is it submitted to federal agencies for approval of construction. None of these steps is particularly easy, and approval of a new transmission line can take more than a decade, if it gets approved at all.

NEMA has been advocating for years for more streamlined planning and siting processes as well as expedited environmental reviews.

“The WIRES study couldn’t be more timely, as job creation is at the forefront of Americans’ minds,” says NEMA director of government relations, Jim Creevy. “The challenge is getting our elected officials to recognize the importance of investments in electrical transmission to both our country’s global competitiveness and job creation.”