US announces $3.5B for projects nationwide to strengthen electric grid, bolster resilience

Michael Vierra looks at his house for the first time after the August wildfire on Sept. 26 in Lahaina, Maui. (AP Photo/Mengshin Lin, File)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday announced $3.5 billion for 58 projects across the country to strengthen electric grid resilience as extreme weather events such as the deadly Maui and California wildfires continue to strain the nation’s aging transmission systems. Hawaiian Electric Company is expected to receive approximately $95 million of that investment.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said it was the largest federal investment ever in grid infrastructure, supporting projects that will harden electric systems and improve energy reliability and affordability. The federal spending, combined with money promised by private partners, could result in up to $8 billion in investments nationally to upgrade the grid, Granholm said.

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“The grid, as it currently sits, is not equipped to handle all the new demand” and withstand natural disasters and extreme weather worsened by climate change, Granholm said at a news conference. “We need it to be bigger, we need it to be stronger, we need it to be smarter” to bring a range of renewable energy projects online and meet the Biden administration’s goal of reaching 100% clean electricity by 2035, she said.

Projects funded by the federal Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program will increase the flexibility, efficiency and reliability of electric power systems, with a particular focus on spurring solar, wind and other renewable energy, Granholm said. The projects also are aimed at fixing problems that may contribute to wildfires and other disasters and will improve reliability by deploying innovative approaches to electricity transmission, storage and distribution, she and other officials said.

Projects to be funded include $249 million each for rural areas in Georgia and Louisiana and $250 million for a Native American tribe in Oregon.

The largest grant, $464 million, will go to improve five transmission projects across seven Midwestern states, from Iowa to North Dakota. The money includes $95 million previously announced for Hawaii in the wake of devastating wildfires this summer, and $150 million to PacifiCorp to upgrade the grid and boost wildfire mitigation in California, Oregon, Utah and other states.

“Our outdated grid has been in need of an update for a long, long time,” said Mitch Landrieu, a White House senior adviser who coordinates implementation of the 2021 infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden.

The grid “is especially vulnerable to the increasing impacts of the climate crisis,” Landrieu added.

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