Edison Files for Devers Line Approval

By Published On: April 16, 2005

A week after the Schwarzenegger administration pitched a plan to build a high-voltage line across the West, Southern California Edison filed for California Public Utilities Commission approval of its long-planned Devers transmission project. The April 12 move would provide a permit for the 230-mile, 500 kV Devers?Palo Verde 2 project, which would feed surplus power into California from the Southwest. Neither Edison nor Joe Desmond, the state?s energy czar, expects the Devers and ?Frontier Line? projects to compete with each other. They agreed the two would hook the state up to different regions and tap into different energy supplies. As with the administration?s Frontier Line project, which would run from Wyoming to California, environmentalists fear Edison?s new electricity highway proposal could portend more coal-fired power (<i>Circuit</i>, April 8, 2005). ?It could undermine the potential for more renewables and make coal more compelling,? warned V. John White, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies executive director. Ron Nunnally, Edison?s director of federal regulation and contracts, disagreed that the high-voltage project would increase coal-fired power imports. The bulk of the surplus power in Arizona comes from modern gas-fired plants, he said. In addition, the existing coal-fired power in Arizona is expected to supply that state?s demand because it is cheaper than power from the new gas-fueled facilities. There is an estimated 6,000 MW surplus of juice in Arizona from new gas plants, according to Nunnally. The California Independent System Operator agrees that the project would allow the state to tap into juice supplied by efficient gas-fired facilities in the Southwest. The grid operator estimated that the project, which would import up to an additional 1,200 MW into California, would produce an $84 million savings. The economic benefit is attributed largely to the reduction in congestion charges caused by traffic jams on CAISO?s grid. It would also allow old, inefficient power plants in California to be retired, said CAISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman. CAISO?s board approved the project in February, noting that it would not only provide economic benefits but also increase reliability and operational flexibility. ?It gives us more options,? Fishman said. Edison?s Devers?Palo Verde 2 line would follow the route of the existing line that was built in the 1980s. That line carries up to 1,500 MW into the state. In addition to CPUC approval, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Arizona Corporation Commission must also okay the project. Edison will file an application with the BLM at the end of this month and expects to seek Arizona?s approval at the end of the year. Edison estimates it will take up to 15 months for the CPUC to approve the project?expected to cost $680 million. The high-voltage wires could be up and running by the summer of 2009. Edison expects the cost of the Devers project to be rolled into rates and CAISO grid transmission charges because the power can be accessed by CAISO customers, Nunnally said.

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