Report: State Permitting for Clean Energy Infrastructure

The Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) has released a new report, “Trials and Transmission: Permitting Policies and Best Practices for Electrical Transmission in the Northeast and Midwest Regions.” This report examines how state-level regulation can facilitate the massive infrastructure buildout needed for the clean energy transition, specifically focusing on high-voltage transmission lines. This report is authored by Institute Policy Research Intern Eva Kappas, Brown University ‘26.

In order to reach net zero emissions, the nation must decarbonize its electrical grid. This means building not just solar and wind facilities, but the electrical transmission lines necessary to transport clean energy from optimal generation sites to our homes. Permitting has proved a major barrier to the realization of transmission projects, taking up to 15 years per project. With only 26 years left until the White House’s net-zero by 2050 goal, these processes must be sped up.

This report investigates what states can do to make their permitting procedures faster while preserving and expanding public participation. While the eighteen states of the Northeast and Midwest have comparable procedural pipelines, the agency managing the permitting process, the number of permits required, and the consideration of public input differ.

Barriers to expeditious and representative permitting cited in the report include overburdened agencies, duplicative applications, a lack of expedited options for renewable energy lines, inaccessibility of information to the public, and antiquated methods of submitting information.

Opportunities for improvement identified in the report include establishing a dedicated energy facility siting board, consolidating approvals under one authority, creating expedited options and exemptions, setting statutory timelines, considering state emissions reduction goals in permitting decisions, and utilizing the Inflation Reduction Act’s Transmission Siting and Economic Development grant program to increase staff capacity.

Policies to increase public participation also are discussed, most notably providing plain-language communications, including public comment in permit decisions, designating intervenors and intervenor funding, requiring municipality recommendations, and requiring developers to fund impact studies for municipalities. If these policies are implemented, the report recommends that state permitting decisions take precedence over localized opposition. These policies and more are described in depth in the report, which features case studies for the implementation of each policy.

Read the full report, Trials and Transmission: Permitting Policies and Best Practices for Electrical Transmission in the Northeast and Midwest Regions,” here.