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Calif. grid operator approves 17 transmission projects, cancels 20 others

The California ISO board of governors on March 22 approved a new transmission plan showing the need for 17 projects, primarily to maintain grid reliability.

Total costs for the projects included in the 2017-2018 transmission plan are estimated at $271.3 million. A memo to the board said the number and capital costs of recommended transmission projects in the new plan represent a "modest increase" from the low amounts seen in recent years. The 2016-2017 plan, for instance, included two reliability-driven projects totaling $24 million.

"While the previous lows were due to the considerable progress made in earlier planning cycles in identifying and approving a wide array of transmission projects, emerging issues and evolving economic opportunities as well as localized load growth have led to more development being identified in this cycle," the memo said.

The plan calls for the cancellation of 18 transmission projects and major scope revisions to 21 projects in the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. service area, cutting around $2.6 billion from the current estimated cost for all previously-approved projects. Another seven projects in the area served by the PG&E Corp. subsidiary are in need of further review in future planning cycles, the plan says.

Two of the canceled projects are in the service territory of Sempra Energy subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The 13 reliability-driven projects in the plan have an estimated price tag of $182.3 million.

Two of the reliability projects are "noteworthy", the memo said, in being part of comprehensive solutions including conventional transmission reinforcement and preferred resources. The $45 million Moorpark-Pardee 230-kV No. 4 Circuit Project, from Edison International subsidiary Southern California Edison Co., has an in-service date of Dec. 31, 2020, and is part of the solution to allow remaining once-through cooling generation in the area to retire, CAISO said.

The Oakland Clean Energy Initiative pitched by PG&E, meanwhile, allows for the eventual retirement of Dynegy Inc.'s 165-MW jet fuel-fired Oakland power plant. The project includes selecting batteries to be procured as transmission assets to meet grid reliability needs — a first for the CAISO transmission planning process.

PG&E introduced the Oakland Clean Energy Initiative in December 2017, touting it as way to use local clean-energy resources, including energy storage, energy efficiency and electric-system upgrades, to ensure reliability in Oakland when the power plant retires. The project is expected to be in service in mid-2022.

The transmission plan also includes four economic-driven projects that will cost an estimated $89 million. As in the draft plan, the final transmission plan said no policy-driven projects are needed to meet California's 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard. This planning cycle did not cover the new standard set in a 2015 law, which calls for 50% renewable energy by 2030, the grid operator said.

The plan also maintained a finding that no projects are eligible for competitive solicitation. Some stakeholders have asked CAISO to open up previously approved projects to competition.