Low-Carbon Grid

CEERT’s Low-Carbon Grid Program promotes the integration of large amounts of renewable energy on the grid by tracking and intervening in crucial proceedings at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and other agencies. We also seek to foster joint operating agreements between the CAISO and the state’s municipal and investor-owned utilities, and promote coordination and consolidation of the Balancing Areas in our state and region as a low-cost means of integrating renewable power. The issues are often highly technical, but have enormous impact on the price of renewable energy projects and their access to the transmission and distribution system.

Recent Developments:

Regional Grid Integration

This year has seen a lot of activity around the goal of better integration of the Western regional grid, including eventual establishment of a regional transmission organization (RTO). There has been slow but steady progress in creating and operating an Extended Day-Ahead Market (EDAM), which has independent governance from throughout the West, with the current CAISO Board retaining its overall authority. At the same time, Western states, including Colorado and Nevada, have passed legislation requiring their states and utilities to become participants in a regional transmission organization.

The key barrier to establishing a fully integrated Regional Transmission Organization is that it would require the establishment of an independent governing board from across the West, and the repeal of California’s statutory requirement that CAISO Board members be appointed by the California Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. Legislation to repeal the existing California governance requirement and enable the creation of a Regional Transmission Organization was introduced in the Assembly in 2023, but was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and is now a two-year bill, due largely to strong opposition from the building trades and the consumer group TURN.

In the meantime, the Southwest Power Pool, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, is proposing to develop a Western Energy market, called Markets Plus, to compete with the CAISO day-ahead market, and draw in non-California utilities to become members and lay the foundation for a Western RTO without California utilities. Our regional colleagues and allies, such as Western Resource Advocates and Renewable Northwest, have expressed concern that continuing frustration with California’s failure to act on governance has opened the door for SPP, especially because of the attitude of the Bonneville Power Administration and its historic differences with California.

There has been criticism of Governor Newsom for not stepping up and expressing his full support for regional grid integration and the transition to an RTO, but that lack of engagement has changed in recent weeks, with both CPUC President Alice Reynolds and CEC Vice Chair Siva Gunda meeting with other Western regulators. These consultations recently resulted in a letter signed by several regulators from California, Arizona, and New Mexico that expressed their commitment to working together to successfully launch EDAM and develop a consensus on future governance of CAISO and its successor.


Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)

There have been no significant new developments on CSP since our last Quarterly Report.