WASHINGTON – Today Senator John Hickenlooper (CO) and Representative Scott Peters (CA) introduced the Building Integrated Grids with Interregional Energy Supply Act, known as the BIG WIRES Act – new legislation to accelerate the building up of U.S. clean energy transmission infrastructure in a way that protects consumers, businesses and wildlife habitats.
Responsibly expanding the clean energy transmission grid would slow rising global temperatures that threaten two-thirds of North American bird species with extinction. Audubon supports expansion that includes collaborative planning efforts to upgrade the grid in ways that help protect birds and people.
“The climate crisis poses an existential threat to birds and people alike, which is why we have an urgent need to equitably and responsibly build out our nation's clean energy transmission infrastructure,” said Sarah Rose, Vice President of Climate for the National Audubon Society. “The BIG WIRES Act would help pave the way for the rapid decarbonization of the electrical grid while reducing impact on wildlife habitats and ensuring a high level of reliability and resilience for consumers and businesses across the country.”
As lawmakers look to accelerate a much-needed build-up of the U.S. power grid, Audubon's new report, Birds and Transmission: Building the Grid Birds Need, lays out why this is critical to stabilizing climate for birds and people. The report also shares the current scientific understanding of solutions to minimize risks to birds.
“We have an urgent need to significantly upgrade our transmission system to increase reliability, foster economic development, and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate,” Rose added. “Not only does Audubon understand the urgency of making critical investments to prepare the grid for the future – we also understand how important it is to do it in the right way.”
The BIG WIRES Act would boost the sharing of excess clean energy produced in one part of the country with other regions facing energy deficits, by requiring that each region be able to transfer at least 30% of its electricity load at peak demand to other regions as needed. Such energy-sharing would reduce the need to build new energy infrastructure – which would reduce the threat to bird habitats from a proliferation of new power lines and energy facilities.
“We thank the sponsors for their leadership, and we look forward to working with Congress to move this bill forward,” Rose said.
“Building transmission capacity will help build the resiliency and meet growing challenges,” Rose added, “including unprecedented demand growth, increasing threats from extreme weather, and the need to balance more intermittent resources – along with current processes for approving and building new transmission infrastructure that take too long and do not always provide adequate environmental and cultural protections.”
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @audubonsociety.
Megan Moriarty, firstname.lastname@example.org