Cortez Masto Leads Colleagues in Call for Continued Support of DOE Electricity Infrastructure Program
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) led her colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry in support of the Western Area Power Administration’s (WAPA) Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP). In order to expand and modernize the electric grid, this program provides financing assistance to developers to construct electric power transmission projects that enhance the delivery of electricity from renewable energy resources to western states.
“We write to encourage you to support the continued and robust use by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) of its Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP),” wrote the senators. “TIP is one of the few federal programs that directly supports new and upgraded electric transmission. TIP has helped address transmission gaps, congestion constraints, and other upgrades across WAPA’s footprint, including over 300 miles of high-voltage construction and upgrades. It is a critical part of delivering high-quality, affordable new electric generation to load centers across our region.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
Recent budget proposals by President Trump’s Administration have called for TIP’s elimination despite widespread support for the program. In an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing last week, Senator Cortez Masto pressed two former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairmen on the benefits of continuing the program. Both former Chairmen James Koecker and Joseph Kelliher reaffirmed the positive impact that TIP has made on the growth of energy transmission infrastructure throughout the West.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Perry:
We write to encourage you to support the continued and robust use by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) of its Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP).
We share your Administration’s objective of upgrading and investing in the Nation’s infrastructure, including the electric grid. TIP is one of the few federal programs that directly supports new and upgraded electric transmission. TIP has helped address transmission gaps, congestion constraints, and other upgrades across WAPA’s footprint, including over 300 miles of high-voltage construction and upgrades. It is a critical part of delivering high-quality, affordable new electric generation to load centers across our region.
TIP’s revolving loan portfolio has ensured federal funds are repaid with interest and made available to future projects in turn. The program’s focus on attracting private capital ensures that WAPA leverages federal funds wisely. The separation of projects under TIP from all other WAPA power and transmission facilities prevents any inappropriate financial underwriting of these projects by WAPA’s preference customers.
We believe WAPA has improved its implementation of TIP since the program’s creation, including how it vets projects and monitors construction. The program offers applicants a low cost of capital, valuable WAPA transmission expertise, and other associated benefits. The authority for WAPA to participate as an equity owner rather than merely a financing partner in some projects remains a valuable opportunity as well. Not every applicant has taken advantage of TIP in the same way, but this suite of program attributes continue to make TIP an important part of electricity policy in the West.
We understand that pending projects in our states are still undergoing review by WAPA. We hope that WAPA, after conducting appropriate due diligence, will not hesitate to execute final agreements with projects that meet the program’s criteria. We believe that over time this collection of TIP-assisted projects will benefit the Western Interconnection as a whole.
We also note our opposition to the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget proposal to repeal the borrowing authority that is at the heart of TIP. Effectively eliminating TIP would be a major step backward in infrastructure policy. We hope the Administration reconsiders this proposal.
Thank you for your consideration.
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