“It shouldn’t take over a decade, for example, to get permitting for a transmission project on federal lands,” Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told energy leaders at CERAWeek by S&P Global.

“It’s crazy!”

Unclogging the system is a priority in the Biden administration, she said, drawing thunderous applause. “We can do this!”

The energy transition requires the ability to "send energy from where it’s generated to where it needs to go,” Granholm said. 

Granholm said Biden has directed the DOE and federal permitting agencies to “use our full authorities under the Federal Power Act to significantly speed those permitting timelines.” 

Daniel Yergin, S&P vice chairman, asked, “So how does the imbroglio get ‘un-imbroglio’ed?’”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s bill last year would have reformed the permit system, but it didn’t pass Congress, Granholm noted. But “we’re still faithful that Congress will be able to come forward with a permitting bill that respects … the intent of protecting the natural environment. 

“We all want that. But we also know that we have the tools to be able to do this [transition] much more quickly.”

Permitting, Infrastructure Woes Block Paths to Net Zero

With existing authority and any additional authority granted, “we’re going to do this; we’re going to accelerate,” she said.

Still, she acknowledged that the existing authority under the Federal Power Act is “on transmission and it’s on public land, so it’s a slice of it.”

But finding a way to resolve all of the issues is in sight, too. 

“We need the whole thing!

“I mean … if it’s going to take seven years to permit a geothermal project—,” she said. 

Yergin interjected, “—And which you can’t get permitted.” 

She continued, “[and] which we want to get permitted and the tax credits last 10 years. What kind of crazy situation is that? So we have to accelerate permitting and the President is committed to it and I think majorities in Congress are committed to it as well.”