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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released its first "National Transmission Congestion Study," since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 required the study to be released one year later, and after that every 3 years. The study shows the areas throughout the country that are experiencing transmission congestion problems, which is when the flow of electricity is restricted because of capacity limits.

According to the DOE, the study will open up discussion on how these constraints can be alleviated. It identifies three types of areas that need further attention, including "critical congestion areas," such as Southern California and the Mid-Atlantic region; less critical "congestion areas of concern"; and "conditional congestion areas," which are locations that could become acutely congested in the future if new electric generation facilities were built.

"The DOE study underscores the fact that the health of the transmission system is not just wind energy's issue - it's a crucial issue for both consumers and other electricity sources, all of whom rely on the grid," says Mike Jacobs, American Wind Energy Association's deputy policy director.

Based on the research in the study, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman may select and designate geographic areas as "national interest electric transmission corridors" to help facilitate the construction of new transmission capacity. Applicants for projects proposed within designated corridors that are not acted upon by state siting authorities within one year may request the Federal Agency Regulatory Commision to exercise federal "backstop" siting authority.

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