News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

5 New Transmission Projects Approved in State

Power lines near Palmdale | Photo: Tony Hoffarth/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The California Independent System Operator (CaISO), which manages the majority of the state's power grid, has approved five new transmission projects that the agency says are crucial to the state's renewable energy future. The five projects, part of a transmission plan that could cost around $1.7 billion, were green-lighted by the CaISO's Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.

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The five projects:

  • The Sycamore-Peñasquitos 230-kilovolt line near Poway in San Diego County, scheduled for completion in 2017 at a cost of up to $221 million;
  • A rerouting of Southern California Edison's 500 kilovolt Eldorado-Lugo line, which now enters California from Nevada near the hamlet of Nipton in San Bernardino County -- slated for completion in 2020 at a cost of $36 million;
  • Equipment upgrades on the Eldorado-Lugo line, scheduled for 2016 at a cost of $121 million;
  • Upgrading the 230 kilovolt line between Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E's) substations at Warnerville (near Hetch Hetchy) and Bellota (near Escalon), scheduled for completion in 2017 at a cost of $28million, and;
  • A similar upgrade to the 115 kilovolt line between PG&E's Wilson and Le Grand substations in Merced County. This would be completed in 2020 and cost $15 million.

The CaISO Board also approved 36 additional transmission projects that it deemed necessary to making the state's grid more reliable. All told, the 41 transmission projects would cost around $1.7 billion dollars. Those costs could be covered by utility ratepayers.

"The CaISO is demonstrating California's global energy leadership by showing how a greener grid is as resilient and reliable as the grids of yesterday while paving the way for tomorrow's sustainable future and helping in the fight against climate change," said CaISO Board Chair Bob Foster in a press release. "A more diverse grid is a more energy secure grid."

[Note: A previous version of this story wrongly reprted that the 36 additional transmission projects were not yet approved. We regret the error.]


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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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hmmm. what is "greener" about spewing megapotent GHG SF6 into the atmosphere while bulldozing roads, pouring concrete and forging steel, while microgrids that could make our grid reliable, clean and secure (unlike long transmission) and could localize and democratize our energy mix are being completely ignored?


Actually Chris, the CAISO board approved all 41 transmission projects in its 2012/13 transmission plan for cost recovery by the CAISO's Transmission Access Charge (TAC) ratepayers--which includes customers of the investor owned utilities and smaller municipal utilities that make up the CAISO balancing authority area. The five projects you point out are considered "smaller" and "policy-driven" by the CAISO.

The CAISO transmission plan is an iterative process that has been allocating billions of dollars in the costs of transmission projects to consumers, annually. The other 36 approved projects are considered needed for "reliability". Its worth noting that the vast majority of these "reliability" projects are in PG&E service territory. Moreover, this years plan comes on the heels of previous annual transmission plans that awarded SDG&E and SCE with projects costing billions of dollars.

The CAISO TPP is not a planning process per se, as much as it is a transmission project facilitation process where utilities are driving decisions made on behalf of consumers. The net effect is TAC rates are increasing at an exponential rate while lower cost alternatives are too often ignored. The CAISO process could stand some improvement, like meaningful consideration and evaluation of non-transmission alternatives that provide direct benefits to rate-payers--i.e. energy efficiency, demand response programs, rooftop solar...


Thanks for the clarification and extended analysis, rd!