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:

New transmission lines and upgrades of existing transmission infrastructure take many years to plan, permit, and build. CEERT’s championing of transmission expansions to tap prime renew­able resource areas is an essential focus of our low-carbon grid work — but one that re­quires patient, persistent advocacy for key new lines and upgrades over a prolonged period of time.

In a significant victory for our work in this area, the CAISO’s recent Transmission Planning report included an upgrade of SCE’s Mesa Substation to 500 kV, which will supply substantial local-capacity benefits at three times the cost-effectiveness of new or repowered gas-fired plants.

CEERT is backing plans for a new transmission line (Imperial to Devers) between IID and the SCE system, which would enable geothermal and other renewables, rather than additional gas-fired power, to meet system needs. We are also working with SCE, the CAISO, and solar thermal developers to ensure approval and construction of the South of Kramer line to serve high-performance solar resources in the West Mojave renewable resource development zone.

CEERT continues to advocate for greater resource sharing between the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and CAISO/SCE grids, and for an interconnection between the two systems in the Los Angeles Harbor area. We are also continuing to support the Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano Interconnect project, which would link the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (LEAPS) project to the SCE and SDG&E systems.

CEERT is also exploring the potential of transmission expansions to enable more exports to the statewide grid of renewable energy from the Central Valley — particularly from agricultural methane digesters and other bioenergy projects and from large-scale solar installations on disturbed, unproductive farmland.

CEERT worked with the CAISO and other stakeholders on the update of the CAISO Trans­mission Plan, and advocated for upgrades and new lines that can expand the role of renewables in balancing the grid. We also encouraged the CAISO to study how pumped storage facilities can enhance system reliability as part of the transmission plan update. We have continued to advocate that CAISO transmission planning should look beyond 2020, and, at a minimum, include scenarios with deep GHG reductions needed to achieve 2030 and 2050 climate targets.


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.