Both tried-and-true and emerging technologies can alleviate the environmental impacts of new and expanded high voltage lines, transmission experts said during a January 22 workshop at the California Public Utilities Commission. \u201cWhat technologies are out there and how to consider them is a complex value judgment,\u201d noted Lloyd Cibulka, California Institute for Energy and Environment research coordinator. Strategies for making power lines less environmentally intrusive include re-rating lines, adjusting their thermal ratings, building higher towers to reduce sagging, putting the wires underground, switching from AC to DC lines, and swapping in larger conductors to increase the carrying capacity of an existing system. Assessing the appropriate strategy for a given project involves weighing its expected costs and risks. Carl Zichella, Sierra Club Western director, insisted that the cost-benefit analysis for new and expanded lines include positive economic effects of greenhouse gas reduction impacts. Cibluka suggested setting a priority list for transmission technologies that trade off economics and environment. An expected 33 percent renewable portfolio mandate supported by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is increasing the pressure for new transmission lines. Experts said this week that new lines are creating opportunities for new technology aimed at reducing the environmental impact of power lines. However, emerging technologies face high hurdles before investor-owned utilities will consider investing in them, partly because transmission system life is projected up to 50 years. Thus, according to speakers at the workshop, research is imperative to declare how well a new component may perform in 20, 30, or more years, as well as ongoing monitoring. \u201cIt is easy to go from leading edge to bleeding edge,\u201d warned Pacific Gas & Electric supervising engineer Randy Hopkins about implementing new technology. PG&E is not opposed to new technologies, but insists on assurances of its reliability and an understanding of the risks, Hopkins said. Technologies in the works predicted to help grid reliability are ones that may store renewable energy. Also, enthusiasm for a \u201csmart grid\u201d surfaced at the workshop. That is expected to include informing ratepayers in real time about fluctuating power prices, which enables them to reduce the consumption at peak times of energy use. Reducing high demand lowers the bar for upgraded and new transmission projects, which are built to projected power peaks.