California Grid Operator Approves Transmission Plan


The California Independent System Operator Corp.'s (CAISO) board of governors has unanimously approved the 2011/2012 Transmission Plan, which identified 30 transmission projects needed to maintain grid reliability.

The plan also affirms, for a second year, that previously approved major transmission projects remain sufficient to meet California's goal of using renewable energy resources to supply 33% of its power use by 2020.

According to the CAISO, analysis shows that approving additional green transmission at this point could potentially lead to overbuilding and stranded investments.

The grid operator explains that by collaborating with the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission to conduct research and analysis, the agency identified renewables-rich, remote areas of California where new transmission upgrades would likely occur. This process aided the grid planning analysis, the CAISO adds.

The ISO 2011/2012 Transmission Plan is the result of a 15-month process in which the CAISO and its stakeholders undertook a comprehensive study of California's grid and generation needs. The plan assesses whether additional transmission is needed to do the following: 1) maintain power grid reliability; 2) enable policy-driven resources (i.e., clean energy delivery); and 3) relieve transmission bottlenecks to reduce costs. The approved project investments total $691 million.

The grid operator says development of next year's plan is already under way and will ascertain the level of flexible generation capacity to meet the changing operational needs of the grid as more renewable energy is added to the system.

Traditional natural-gas plants provide flexible capacity, which is essential in balancing fluctuations of wind and solar power, as well as supporting and maintaining local area demand, the CAISO notes.

‘The needs of our grid are becoming more complex as California strives to reach important clean energy goals,’ says Neil Millar, CAISO's executive director of transmission planning. ‘ISO operators need the right mix of resources going forward to reliably manage the power system, and that includes conventional generation that can quickly ramp up or down to complement the variable flow of renewable power.’

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