On December 19, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released long-awaited final guidance on its process to designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (commonly referred to as “NIETCs,” pronounced \NIT-sees\). Once designated, these corridors will bolster federal permitting authority over transmission projects in areas most in need of additional capacity.
As we’ve previously noted, DOE has statutory authority to designate NIETCs in transmission-constrained or congested geographic areas, within which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may issue permits for construction or modification of electric transmission facilities. Transmission permitting authority has traditionally been held by the states, so NIETC designation could have broader effects with respect to the siting and permitting of transmission projects.
According to the final guidance, DOE will designate NIETCs based on four criteria:
- Findings from the National Transmission Needs Study, which notes the pressing need for additional transmission infrastructure, especially across regions. DOE released the draft study in the spring and published the final study in October. According to the study, increased transmission capacity across the Eastern, Western, and Texas Interconnections and between New England and New York would provide the greatest value.
- Public input gained through collaboration with affected states, Tribes, local communities, industry, and stakeholders.
- Information and recommendations relevant to transmission capacity constraints or congestion that harms consumers currently or in the future, and ongoing roadblocks to transmission development in those areas, such as permitting, siting, or regulatory issues.
- Information on whether one or more transmission projects are under development in those areas.
Further, DOE will engage in a four-phase process to identify potential NIETCs. During this process, DOE plans to:
- Collect information on geographic areas where NIETC designation may be particularly valuable.
- Publish a preliminary list of potential NIETC designations and collect more detailed information and feedback concentrated on the preliminary list.
- Complete any needed environmental and other reviews, conduct robust public engagement, and publish one or more draft NIETC designation reports and environmental documents.
- Conclude by publishing one or more final NIETC designation reports and environmental documents.
The initial window for submitting information and recommendations closes on February 2, 2024 at 5:00 PM. Submissions can be made by emailing NIETC@hq.doe.gov. DOE will hold a webinar about this initial public comment period on January 3, 2024 at 1:00 PM EST.
DOE expects to issue its preliminary list of potential NIETC designations and open a second public comment period on the preliminary list in spring 2024.