ORIGINAL REPORTING: Pushback to the California grid expansion
As California grid expansion nears finish line, hurdles only get higher; "With this bill, anything we do makes someone grumpy," said one architect of legislation to create a full Western electricity market.
Herman K. Trabish, July 24, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: California’s proposal for a regional grid did not get out of committee in the last session. Advocates are working on a new version, but it may not get traction in a legislature focused on wildfires and the PG&E bankruptcy.
California policymakers’ longstanding dream of a regional transmission system would eliminate barriers between the 38 independent systems across the Western states and create a full regional electricity market. Advocates for Assembly Bill 813 say it could cut the West's electricity costs by eliminating interregional transmission charges and the building of redundant generation. Opponents agree the benefits are appealing. But, they say, regionalization will risk renewable energy jobs and incentivize the building of expensive transmission lines. Although the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is already under federal jurisdiction, regionalization opponents argue that it would make California's nation-leading climate policies more vulnerable to action from Trump appointees on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
California Senate Bill 350, passed and signed in 2015, requires the state's investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to obtain 50% of their power from renewables by 2030. It also ordered CAISO to study the feasibility of expanding its market across the West. Studies completed in 2016 showed regionalization could generate $1 billion to $1.5 billion in annual benefits to California ratepayers. By 2030, it could also provide between 9,900 and 19,400 jobs throughout the West and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. State lawmakers failed to pass a version of AB 813, the regionalization bill, in 2017 and 2018. It would restructure CAISO governance to allow participation by the other Western states that would be part of the market. A coalition of ratepayer, labor, and environmental advocates opposes the bill because they see it as exposing California to compromised renewables and climate policies and to Trump administration initiatives… click here for more