Delays like the one faced by Northwestern often encourage utilities to take a more conservative approach. "The reason we have a gap in transmission is [that] we have lack of certainty," says Don Mundy, senior vice president for Black & Veatch. "If you fix the certainty, you fix the problem."
As a result, to fix immediate problems, large game-changing transmission projects may be replaced in the short term by smaller and simpler lines.
"What ends up being built is a lot of suboptimal," says John Flynn of the American Transmission Co. "You are proposing a four-lane highway but can only build a series of one-lane roads."