State Seeks ‘Least Regrets’ Transmission System for RPS

By Published On: April 3, 2009

In an attempt to plan for feeder transmission lines to bring expected renewable energy from their sources to customers, the California Energy Commission, along with Pacific Gas & Electric, is gathering data and making early analyses for “regional integration of renewables.” The plan is to make the most of the current transmission system with regionally pinpointed new transmission lines while spending as little as possible and limiting harm to the environment. In a March 30 workshop, data on where renewable energy may come from and what sort of transmission lines--including line size and placement--could move the energy began to show the faint outline of the work ahead to implement the idea. The conceptual new lines are being referred to as “least regrets” transmission. The stakeholders backing the “least regrets” concept believe that without the promise or reality of transferring a renewable facility’s energy to customers, the facilities won’t be built. Or, if they are built, there will be so much congestion on the current transmission system that the renewable energy will be constantly curtailed in order to keep electricity flowing instead of bottling it up. “You cannot sign someone up and say, ‘most of the time you get curtailed,’” said Chifong Thomas, PG&E’s lead on the project. At the same time, Thomas noted that utilities are loath to stick out their financial necks if renewable facilities aren’t going to be built. “It’s a major concern of utilities: what if you build a line and nobody comes?” According to the commission, the renewables integration project is to focus on three areas--conceptual transmission, reliability across territories, and preliminary routes and engineering. Commission data predict that in 2010 the gap between what the renewables portfolio standard requires and what will be available for use is about 30,000 GWh. In 2020, the state expects a gap of about 55,000 GWh.

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