The US Department of Energy (DOE) has invited bids for a $1.2 billion program to upgrade the United States' electricity grid.

The DOE has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to take part in the second round of the Transmission Facilitation Program, a bipartisan public-private project that aims to reshape the electric grid in America so it can support a shift to 100 percent clean energy.

– US Department of Energy

“There’s no way around it: to realize the full benefit of the nation’s goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, we need to more than double our grid capacity,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

The Program will use "capacity contracts," in which the DOE will promise to buy up to half of the maximum capacity of a new transmission line and then recoup the investment by selling its capacity rights to other customers.

The DOE says this will give investors and potential customers greater confidence that power will be available while making sure project developers don't build too much or too little capacity. If the DOE didn't take this role as an "anchor" customer, much of this new capacity would not be built, the Department claims.

Overall, this will "unlock billions of dollars of state and private sector capital" and boost the reliability of the US grid, which has shown worrying signs of strain in recent years, with particular issues in states including Texas.

The figure of doubling capacity comes from the National Transmission Needs Study, published by the DOE in October 2023, which also said that transmission between US regions must be increased fivefold to distribute clean energy and provide the country with resilience in the face of extreme weather and other disruptions.

Under the Transmission Facilitation Program, the DOE can borrow up to $2.5 billion for new transmission.

Back in October, DOE announced the first round of transmission boosting, putting up to $1.3 billion into three transmission lines crossing six states that will add 3.5GW of additional grid capacity across the United States. These lines include the Cross-Tie 500kV Transmission Line (Nevada, Utah), Southline Transmission Project (Arizona, New Mexico), and Twin States Clean Energy Link (New Hampshire, Vermont).  

There are two parts to this second RFP. The first stage has a deadline of March 11, and a public webinar is being held on at 3pm Eastern time on February 21, 2024.