Since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a rule in 2006 allowing incentive-based rate treatment for transmission work, it has received more than 75 applications for projects totaling $50 billion. Money isn't the issue. The problem with building the lines is exemplified in the Mountain States Transmission Intertie, a $1-billion high-voltage line recently canceled by Northwestern Energy.
Northwestern began developing the project in 2004, when developers with 3,000 MW of projects indicated interest in a line that would move wind power from Montana to Idaho, where it could be distributed via other lines to big markets in the Southwest, including California. Montana is the third-largest wind-energy resource in the U.S., but it has no need for the power within the state and sends very little past its borders.