Despite concerns over cost and barring non-utility transmission builders, the new California Independent System Operator board consented to $1.2 billion in transmission projects May 18. The approved transmission plan is the first to tie together the grid operator\u2019s traditional reliability responsibility with its efforts to implement the state\u2019s higher renewable energy mandate. Environmentalists supported the transmission projects. Independent generators opposed CAISO\u2019s decision. The California Public Utilities Commission is conflicted. It\u2019s trying to ensure new renewable resources are developed while keeping a lid on costs, according to staff. \u201cYou are approving an extremely biased outcome that will cost consumers,\u201d Gary Ackerman, Western Independent Transmission Group executive director, told the CAISO board. The transmission projects--and pointedly the Path 42 upgrade--edge out non-utility builders, according to Ackerman. In the 32 transmission projects approved by the grid operator, environmentalists, as well as the Imperial Irrigation District, singled out one upgrade--replacing parts of Path 42 in Southern California Edison territory at $40 million. That line is expected to bring in energy from large desert solar projects. You have \u201cenvironmentalists arguing for another transmission line,\u201d said Carl Zichella, Natural Resources Defense Council director of Western energy transmission, noting the irony. While Edison representatives did not mention the utility\u2019s transmission building plan at this board meeting, executives earlier this month told the financial community that the utility\u2019s future plans are to focus investments on transmission projects (Current, May 13, 2011). The CPUC is stuck in between. It\u2019s to lay the ground rules for the state\u2019s 33 percent renewables portfolio standard, but do it in a way \u201cthat\u2019s the least-cost for consumers,\u201d said Nancy Ryan, CPUC deputy executive director of policy and external relations. The CPUC supported the plan but raised concerns about its cost. In an update on grid reliability for the summer, Bob Emmert, CAISO lead interconnection service engineer, said that in all probability power reserves are expected to be above the required 15 percent reserve cushion. \u201cThe economy would have to be doing a lot better than Moody\u2019s [ratings service] projects to have an impact on reserve margins,\u201d he said. If the economy surges power consumption is expected to rise, he added. Alternatively, \u201cIf the economy goes into a double dip recession, it\u2019s much better for reserve margins.\u201d Three new board members joined incumbent board chair Bob Foster, casting a unanimous vote. Ashutosh Bhagwat, Angelina Galiteva, and Richard Maullin, who await legislative confirmation, supported the plan.