Friday, 27 January 2017

Trump team's infrastructure short list is long on renewables, Karl-Erik Stromsta, Recharge News, Jan. 26, 2017

A list of near-term infrastructure priorities for the Trump administration that emerged this week includes several massive renewables-related projects, suggesting Trump’s team may be more open to the job-creating power of renewables than previously realised. 

Throughout the presidential campaign and his first days in the White House, Trump has emphatically promised to make heavy investments into the country’s crumbling infrastructure without seeming to appreciate the potential for renewables to aid that vision and create jobs. 

But this week the McClatchy news group published a list of near-term infrastructure priorities reportedly compiled by Trump’s transition team after receiving input from governors around the country. In what may come as a surprise to many in the industry, the list is long on projects that would help the country add huge amounts of renewables, particularly wind, in addition to more predictable projects involving bridges, highways and airports. 

Also notable is the list’s use of positive language to describe renewable energy, using phrases like “cheap, clean wind power”. Trump himself has mainly said negative—and often untrue—things about wind and solar power. 

The White House was quick to state that the list is not an official document, and congressional sources describe it as a work in progress. The list was drawn up in late 2016, after Trump's election.

Still, it offers a first glimpse into the specific infrastructure projects Trump's team is considering backing. And it suggests that renewables may not be left on the sidelines after all as the Trump administration begins its massive infrastructure push, a push many political observers expect Democrats to get behind. 

Among the 50 projects on the list are:

The Anschutz Corp.’s $5bn Chokecherry and Sierra Madre (CCSM) wind project in Wyoming and the associated $3bn TransWest Express Transmission line. Just last week the 3GW CCSM, which would be the largest onshore wind farm in the world, received several key approvals from the government for its first 1.5GW phase. 
Clean Line Energy Partners’ $2.5bn Plains and Eastern Transmission line, which would flow 4GW of wind from the Oklahoma panhandle to utilities in the mid-South region, including Tennessee and Arkansas. 
The $2.2bn Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission project, being developed by Blackstone-owned Transmission Developers Inc., which will deliver 1GW of mainly hydro power from Canada to the New York City metro region. 

In a statement sent to Recharge, Michael Skelly, president of Texas-based Clean Line Energy, said: "Clean Line is pleased to be part of the discussion around high priority infrastructure projects ... and excited that building next-generation infrastructure and a modern electric grid are a key part of the Trump Administration’s agenda to create local jobs and give Americans access to more American energy resources." 

A spokesperson for CCSM and TransWest said: "We are very confident that these projects can advance under this Administration, which recognizes the value of large infrastructure development, and we anticipate learning more about this infrastructure program as it may move forward." 

While it's not entirely clear what sort of support the government would lend the clean-energy projects, the fact that they are being carefully studied by Trump's team is a positive sign. The list notes that all of the above projects intend to use private funding, although the government could offer help in other ways. 

Many of the other projects on the list would be funded entirely or primarily by public money. All of the projects on the list are deemed “shovel ready” and critical to national security, and all are expected to contribute to US manufacturing. "

Work is already underway at factories in Arkansas and Oklahoma where the glass insulators and steel poles required for the project will be manufactured," Skelly says. 

Also included on the list is a sweeping effort to build energy storage and modern grid infrastructure in California to help bring more renewables into the system, and an initiative to modernise the huge fleet of US Army Corps-operated hydroelectric plants, with the aim of lifting their operational efficiency from 80% today to the industry average of around 99%. 

In contrast to the strong showing by renewables-related projects on the list, there are relatively few projects directly related to fossil fuels. 

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