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E&E News: How California Can Meets its 'Eye-Popping' Transmission Needs

Posted by Jason Plautz on Apr 19, 2023

PoliticoPro highlights the path forward for California to meet its transmissions needs, quoting Brian Turner on tightening coordination amongst agencies to address electrification and demand growth.

California will need to add more than $9 billion worth of new transmission infrastructure to avoid blackouts while also meeting clean energy goals, according to a new report from the state’s main grid operator. The draft report released last week by the California Independent System Operator identifies 46 new transmission lines needed to connect renewable energy projects to areas where people live.

Experts have said the Biden administration’s efforts to achieve a carbon-free U.S. grid by 2035 could fall short without more transmission infrastructure. That’s especially true in California, which has a goal to achieve a carbon-free power system by 2045. The CAISO report says, for example, that utilities will need more transmission lines to reach wind generation being built in Wyoming, Idaho and New Mexico or solar farms in California’s Central Valley.

If the projects identified in the draft plan come through, California would see substantial new transmission in Imperial County in the southeastern corner of the state. Brian Turner, policy director for Western states at the clean energy advocacy group Advanced Energy United, commended the state for identifying an “openness to out-of- state resources” in the transmission plan to facilitate power sharing across state lines. Turner’s group was not involved in the drafting of the report.

Turner directed a long-range transmission planning project for the California Natural Resources Agency in 2016 and said the scale of the challenge has increased since that time. A combination of plant retirements and demand growth, he said, has led to “eye- popping numbers” in the latest CAISO draft.

“Electrification and demand growth across the West is driving the needs of this plan. It means we need some really big solutions,” Turner said.

He added that many of the corridors identified in the draft have been studied in the past, which means they could avoid the land management and permitting problems that have held up many large transmission projects.

The draft report also comes as CAISO is undergoing a broader examination of the interconnection process to streamline applications for developers of utility-scale generation and storage. With the transmission draft, CAISO envisions a process that would align generation with transmission by designated geographic zones where new transmission is being built.

Regulators would then communicate what capacity for specific resource types is available in that region, with interconnection requests in those zones given prioritization.

“Where you once had transmission and anybody and everybody could grab the capacity, this says let’s save that capacity for the resources that will fill the need,” said Turner of Advanced Energy United. “It’s further tightening the coordination among all the agencies and thinking ahead about how to align transmission with new generation.”

Read the full article here.


Topics: United In The News, Brian Turner