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Green Gridworks

Case studies on integrating renewable resources.

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2012

All of the CREZ priority and subsequent projects required new rights-of-way and thus CCN applications. All but one of the CCN applications for CREZ priority projects were approved by the PUCT and are proceeding toward acquiring rights-of-way and construction. One priority project, the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Gillespie-Newton transmission line, was denied by the PUCT and canceled. It likely will be replaced by an upgrade to existing transmission infrastructure in the near term.

The last CREZ upgrade is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2013. There are still risks of scheduling delays over the next year, as many of the upgrades are still being developed, routes selected, and designs with schedules finalized.

California: Expansion Planning

California has a range of significant renewable resource potential—solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. The California integration experience is mixed, with considerable transmission progress made to deliver renewable energy from one region, the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area, and more limited progress to link up geothermal and solar energy in another, the Imperial Valley.

In 2002, California established its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) program, with an initial goal of having renewable energy contribute 20 percent of the state’s retail sales by 2017. Later studies recommended accelerating that goal, and Senate Bill 107 in 2006 codified a 20 percent RPS target by 2010. Figure 3 shows the progress since the start of the RPS program of the three largest investor owned utilities, which serve about two thirds of California’s load. Prior to 2011, compliance with RPS targets by municipals, cooperatives, and other public power utilities was voluntary. According to the California Energy Commission, public utilities added only 290 MW of renewables since the RPS program began, and the total statewide renewable generation in 2010 was about 16 percent of statewide retail sales—less than the 20 percent target.

In 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08 requiring that “...[a]ll retail sellers of electricity shall serve 33 percent of their load with renewable energy by 2020.” The following year, Executive Order S-21-09 directed the California Air Resources Board to enact regulations to achieve the 33 percent renewable energy goal by 2020. According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) 2010-2011 Transmission Plan, the quantity of renewable generation will have to more than double current levels in order to meet the goal in 2020. The additional 53 TWh required to meet that goal (see Figure 4) , would require about 20,000 MW of new renewable wind resources, a very ambitious goal considering the fact that only 2,300 MW of renewable resources were added between 2003 and 2010.

When the 2002 RPS law was passed, the Tehachapi area was already one of the major wind generation centers in California with about 700 MW in service. Tehachapi, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, is served by Southern California Edison. In their 2003 reports to the legislature, both the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) stated that the Tehachapi area had the potential to supply about 40 percent of the energy needed to meet the RPS. According to the