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Calif. group favors alternatives to transmission lines to meet energy goals

A desert conservation group is calling on California planners to look to ways other than building utility-scale projects and transmission lines to meet the state's climate and renewable energy goals. The Alliance for Desert Preservation, a group that aims to protect the High Mojave Desert, said meeting California's target to have 50% renewable electricity by 2030 and cut emissions 40% below 1990 levels by that date does not require big new power plants and lines.

"Forcing a flood of utility-scale projects and new transmission throughout California's rural lands, by means of a top-down, landscape-level approach, would diminish and fragment—perhaps irrevocably—our human and natural communities, and lead to bad energy and land use planning," the group said in comments filed with the California Energy Commission.

The commission hosted a series of workshops last month related to the 2017 Integrated Energy Policy Report, including one that dealt with strategic transmission investment planning. The Alliance for Desert Protection, or ADP, said nonwires alternatives discussed at the workshop should be given further study.

ADP encouraged the commission to support site-specific distributed generation, energy efficiency and battery storage as viable alternatives to centralized, utility-scale generation as the primary way to achieve California's energy goals, and to develop a transmission plan that fully integrates these options.

"Our state's environmental goals do not mandate a single-minded reliance on utility-scale plants and transmission, and any purported justification for excluding anything behind the meter should be examined closely and with healthy skepticism," ADP said.

The Bay Area Municipal Transmission Group encouraged he state to make the most of existing transmission infrastructure, with particular attention given to whether there are regulatory obstacles or other disincentives to the incorporation of alternative technologies, or technical issues that need to be addressed.

But, in its comments, Duke America Transmission Co. said meeting California's energy goals will require infrastructure and planning that needs to begin soon.

"Sound transmission development will play an integral role in meeting the state's GHG targets by connecting renewable resources to load and facilitating an increasingly regionalized transmission grid," the company said. "While 2030 may seem distant, for transmission planners, it is rapidly approaching."

The company, a partnership between Duke Energy Corp. and American Transmission Co. LLC, said it can take 10 years or longer to plan, permit, finance and build major transmission projects in California. Given this timeline, planning to meet the 2030 and any post-2030 goals needs to start soon.

The company is also encouraging a planning period of longer than 10 years, saying that horizon is too short to facilitate the achievement of long term climate and renewable energy goals. (Docket No. 17-IEPR-13)