Edison Transmission Investments Build

By Published On: August 5, 2011

Southern California Edison plans $4.958 billion in new transmission between the Nevada border and Los Angeles in the next three years. Jim Scilacci, Edison chief financial officer, told the financial community Aug. 4 that of the total transmission investment, $3 billion is set for 2012. While this year’s segment of investments (mostly for bringing wind power in from the Tehachapi mountains) are approved to reap up to an 11.5 percent rate of return, Scilacci said that next year’s investments are pooled down to expect a 10.85 percent return for investors. Edison management maintains that building transmission is a better use of its capital than developing its own new generation--although it is still doing some of the latter. “Transmission is expensive, but it’s worth it. We’ll have it for 50-60 years,” said Carl Zichella, Natural Resources Defense Council director, Western transmission. Zichella said that the new investments were all for renewable resources. “There’s no new fossil being put on those lines as far as I’m aware of.” Those who want to build transmission projects on an open market, that is, non-utility competitors, are not sanguine. “Edison’s $6 billion gift from California ratepayers is an unconscionable oversight by the parties who plan transmission and regulate rates,” Gary Ackerman, Western Power Trading Forum executive director, responded. “If independent transmission developers were given the opportunity to compete with Edison, then even a 10 percent reduction in the transmission costs would mean a $600 million savings. Edison has been granted carte blanche to gold plate its asset base at the expense of everyone else,” he added. This year, Edison’s building segments of a line to bring in wind power from the Tehachapis. The total line is set to be completed in 2015 at a cost of $1.26 billion. In 2013 three projects--the Devers-Colorado, Eldorado-Ivanpah, and Red Bluff--are set to be in service at a total cost of $1.32 billion. In 2014, the Alberhill project is expected to be licensed for $213 million. Also in 2014, the San Joaquin Cross Valley line is set for construction for $140 million. “Various” projects during that time frame are set to cost $2 billion, according to Edison. In general, all the projects run either from between Los Angeles and the Nevada border to the east, the peaks of the Tehachapis to the north, and San Diego to the south. The plan is to bring new electricity development--both wind and solar thermal--from the desert areas to urban consumers. Edison expects to tap 4,500 MW of wind power from the Tehachapis alone.

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