California needs to put down its magnifying glass and instead develop a long-range vision to achieve successful transmission planning, according to a draft study by the California Energy Commission released at the end of last week. Traditional approaches to transmission planning are shortsighted, says the commission staff analysis. Many projects take eight to 10 years to develop, but a number of the current interconnections being explored were identified 20 to 30 years ago. Thus, a planning horizon looking ahead 25 to 30 years, which anticipates changes in population, economic activity, and electricity consumption, is needed, says the staff report. ?A long-term vision of the state?s transmission system, developed in a collaborative manner, can provide the framework for making intelligent choices now with respect to the type, size, location, value, cost, functions, and operational characteristics of future transmission projects,? concludes the draft paper, <i>Upgrading California?s Electric Transmission System: Issues and Actions for 2004 and Beyond<\/i>. Planning corridors for transmission projects well in advance of when new projects are developed is a crucial strategy, says the paper. Without available land, new facilities cannot be built, which jeopardizes the ability to access renewables and other sources of energy. Another key recommendation is that planners evaluate alternatives to new transmission lines early in the planning process. Consideration of options is often delayed until the permitting process, even though regulators, industry, and the public agree that ?waiting until the permitting process is typically too late.? To be effective, alternatives to high-voltage projects need to be evaluated with the same scrutiny as high-voltage projects themselves.