FERC Faces New Policy-Based CA Transmission

By Published On: June 11, 2010

In addition to reliability and price factors, new transmission project approval may also hinge on California policy directives, under a proposal being explored by the California Independent System Operator. The grid operator applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission June 4 for permission to be able to add state policy--like the renewables portfolio standard--to its palette of approved standards. “We’re trying to look at the big picture,” stated CAISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman. This plan would add what the grid operator calls a “holistic” approach to transmission planning. Instead of a case-by-case approval for projects, CAISO would adopt a statewide view incorporating political and regulatory policies. Fishman added. If federal regulators sign off on the plan, transmission projects are expected to be funded and built by existing transmission line owners, like investor-owned utilities, or new developers. The upgrades would have a “common denominator” approach for hooking up electric current from all renewable energy projects, according to Nancy Rader, California Wind Energy Association executive director. Currently, CAISO approves new projects if they meet reliability expectations, provide network benefits, or provide less expensive power. “The important advantages of this approach are that it will efficiently strengthen the grid while creating a foundation for robust competition among renewables,” Rader noted. ”Conversely, it will avoid over-building the system and avoid discrimination among generators.” She added, though, that the grid operator’s decision leading to the filing “lacked either any principles or any details that would provide any assurance of these results.” Transmission project approval also comes under the aegis of other governmental agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission, and local and state planning departments, as well as CAISO.

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