Renewables Transmission Planning and Development

Transmission is to renewable energy resources what the transcontinental railroad was to opening up the West. We need to connect California’s renewable resource-rich regions—wind from Tehachapi, geothermal and wind from the Imperial Valley, concentrated solar power from the Mojave Desert, and to a lesser extent, bio-energy from the Central Valley—to the large coastal urban load centers of the state where it is needed. Making this vital connection will require a series of massive, multi-billion dollar investments in new transmission infrastructure. In conjunction with the California Energy Commission, we have been promoting a unique stakeholder collaboration project to expedite planning and development of vital transmission projects.

Recent Developments:

CEERT’s Jim Caldwell participated significantly in the CAISO’s recently concluded 2016 – 2017 Trans­mis­sion Plan on the following issues:

  • Local Capacity Resource Technical Analysis to help inform grid reform efforts.
  • Risk of Economic Retirement of Gas Fleet Special Study to help inform both short-term and long-term decoupling of gas from providing essential reliability services. This study confirmed that there is a large surplus of gas plants that do not mitigate locational reliability concerns, and that as much as 4,000 – 6,000 MW of existing facilities could retire without impacting grid reliability, after con­sider­ing once-through-cooling retire­ments and closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant.  The implica­tions for construction of new gas plants are profound.
  • Gas/Electric Coordination Special Study to help inform the need for gas infrastructure investment to ensure electric reliability. This is critical for understanding Aliso Canyon issues in the short term and for planning long-term investment strategy consistent with decarbonization goals.
  • A Special Study previewing plans for a 50% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which found that little or no major new transmis­sion in­vestment in California is required to achieve current 2030 targets. Details of this general find­ing will be litigated in the CPUC’s Integrated Resource Planning proceeding.

V. John White attended the CAISO Board of Governors meeting in late March, and spoke during the public comment period about the need for the CAISO’s transmission planning portfolios to be based on 50% RPS and 2030 GHG targets. He also encouraged the CAISO to work closely with the Bonneville Power Administration and other publicly owned utilities to enable bilateral exchanges between California and the Pacific Northwest, and between the CAISO and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), to export surplus renewables in the middle of the day and then import zero-carbon hydroelectric power to help meet the evening ramp.

On a key issue for CEERT’s advocacy over the past 4 – 5 years, the CAISO has for the first time in a long while unequivocally committed to making available trans­mi­ssion deliverability from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) into the CAISO system that would allow incremental development of Salton Sea geothermal.  A full build­out of that re­source would require more transmission upgrades, but effec­tively there is now no short-term transmission constraint to achieve full-capacity interconnec­tion for new geothermal develop­ment.  This year, the CAISO has actually supported geothermal development and has, on its own, re­moved the transmission constraint that has been a major factor hindering develop­ment of Salton Sea geothermal.

Transmission Expansions

CEERT has met with several proponents of transmission expansions, including projects in Imperial and the Central Valley and Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) West of Devers project in eastern Riverside County. There is continuing interest in making CAISO’s long-term transmission planning process be in better alignment with 2030 GHG reduction targets and with local and regional land-use planning and economic development and sustainability goals, especially in the Central Valley and eastern Riverside and Imperial counties.

California Independent System Operator (CAISO) CEERT and NREL also worked with LS Power on evaluating the regional economic and environmental benefits of the Idaho/Nevada Southwest Intertie Project North (SWIP-N) transmission line, which would facilitate increased imports of high-capacity, low-cost wind energy from Wyoming.