Doubling Transmission Capacity of Existing Grid Through Reconductoring: Report

Reconductoring involves replacing existing conductors with advanced counterparts


Advances in grid technologies offer promising solutions to augment the existing transmission infrastructure swiftly and cost-effectively. One such solution highlighted by a recent report by the non-profit organization GridLab is the technology of reconductoring with advanced conductors within existing corridors.

Reconductoring involves replacing existing conductors with advanced counterparts in the same rights-of-way (ROW), enhancing the current grid’s transmission capacity.

The report states that reconductoring offers the most feasible path to up to double transmission capacity along existing transmission corridors. This approach allows for the efficient utilization of clean energy resources while new transmission lines are developed to meet long-term system needs.

By leveraging advanced conductors, reconductoring projects can double the power transfer capacity within existing ROWs, particularly benefiting shorter transmission lines (<50 miles) limited by thermal constraints.

In a report last year, the International Energy Agency said that the world must add or replace 80 million kilometers of electricity grids by 2040, equal to all grids globally today, to meet national climate targets and support energy security.

The reconductoring technology solution could be helpful in countries like India, where renewable energy generation is surging, resulting in an unprecedented demand for evacuation infrastructure to connect to the grid.

Need for Reconductoring

The landscape of energy production and consumption is rapidly evolving, driven by the twin forces of plummeting costs in clean energy technologies and the increasing demand for electricity across various sectors.

To achieve ambitious clean energy goals, such as the aim of 100% clean electricity in the U.S. by 2035, the focus has shifted to generating renewable energy and addressing the critical constraint of grid capacity.

While the deployment of renewable energy sources has seen growth, transmission capacity has struggled to keep pace, growing at a mere 1% per year over the past decade. This imbalance has led to over 2 TW of untapped generation and storage resources awaiting grid access.

Moreover, escalating electricity demand, coupled with the escalating frequency and severity of extreme weather events, is placing unprecedented strain on the grid.

To alleviate this pressure and ensure the realization of decarbonization goals, immediate action to enhance transmission capacity is imperative.

Recent policy initiatives have outlined long-term strategies for expanding transmission capacity, yet implementing these measures will take time, leaving critical gaps in the interim.

Economic Advantages of Reconductoring

The economic advantages of reconductoring with advanced conductors are substantial. Compared to the construction of new transmission lines, reconductoring projects typically cost less than half while providing similar capacity increases across all voltage levels.

These cost savings are further amplified when considering the speed of implementation and the avoidance of new ROW acquisition and construction costs.

The impact of reconductoring extends beyond immediate gains in transmission capacity. By enabling nearly four times the interzonal transmission capacity expansion by 2035 compared to new-build alone, reconductoring facilitates the transition toward widespread decarbonization and electrification.

This approach not only meets near-term transmission needs but is also expected to buy time for developing new lines to address long-term requirements.

A simultaneous strategy of reconductoring with advanced conductors and addressing barriers to new greenfield transmission presents the most significant cost savings, totaling over $400 billion by 2050 compared to the business-as-usual scenario.

By unlocking access to clean energy in more locations and distributing transmission capacity across multiple corridors, reconductoring contributes to lower wholesale electricity costs and substantial system-wide savings.

However, realizing reconductoring’s technical potential hinges on overcoming various barriers, including technical integration considerations and policy and regulatory challenges.

Addressing these obstacles is essential to harnessing the full benefits of reconductoring with advanced conductors and accelerating the transition toward a cleaner, more resilient grid.