Local buy-in key to speedier transmission development, study finds

Source: By Jeffrey Tomich, E&E News • Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2024

Developers have neglected to engage host communities until “after everything was so-called baked,” said former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Heavy machinery is used to cut trees to widen an existing power line corridor in Maine.

Heavy machinery is used to cut trees to widen an existing power line corridor near Bingham, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo

Developers could speed up transmission projects by engaging upfront with the communities in a power line’s path, according to a study by researchers at Harvard University and MIT.

The study published Tuesday during Harvard Climate Week includes the lessons learned from three multi-state transmission projects that got bogged down in different regions of the U.S.

Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard and lead author of the study, said proposed power lines often face delays because developers don’t listen to the needs of local communities.

“If we were to identify one thing that we think is systematically going wrong in all the case studies, even though they’re very different places and very different projects, [it] is that the listening process broke down in every instance where things failed,” Ansolabehere said, adding that developers treated the public engagement process “as a box to be checked” rather than an opportunity to improve their projects.