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California ISO board approves $1.83 billion in transmission projects


The California Independent System Operator's board of governors approved Thursday 30 transmission projects costing about $1.83 billion through the grid operator's 2013-2014 transmission plan, an ISO spokesman said Friday.

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Projects in the ISO's 2013-2014 transmission plan and approved at Thursday's board meeting include 28 reliability-driven projects costing about $1.7 billion and two policy-driven projects costing about $135 million.

Fourteen of the 28 recommended reliability projects, costing about $486.4 million, are in Pacific Gas and Electric's service territory, while 11 reliability projects costing about $584 million are in San Diego Gas & Electric's service territory.

Two reliability projects costing about $626 million are in Southern California Edison's service territory and one about $100,000 project is in Valley Electric Association's service territory.

The plan noted, however, that the skewed project totals reflect the fact that PG&E and SDG&E have their lower voltage facilities under the ISO's control, while SoCal Ed does not.

The March 12 draft of the 2013-2014 transmission plan presented to the board also recommended one economically driven project to help ease congestion, a roughly 110-mile, 500-kV line from the Delaney substation near Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona to the Colorado River substation in eastern Riverside County, California, near the border with Arizona. But the board removed the $338 million proposed line from the list of approved projects at Thursday's meeting, according to ISO spokesman Steven Greenlee.

"The board asked for a study that would take a more holistic look at the greater Imperial Valley region and the impacts of projects, such as Delaney-Colorado River, would have on the region's deliverability," Greenlee said in an email.

"The study is expected to be in the next transmission planning cycle, or possibly, as an amendment to the 2013-2014 [plan] depending when the study can be completed and the recommendations it produces."

The ISO had highlighted the need for further studies of how to increase deliverability of renewable resources in the Imperial Valley area in the draft transmission plan.

"The deliverability of future renewable generation from the Imperial Valley area may be significantly reduced, primarily due to the changes in flow patterns resulting from the retirement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station," the ISO said in the draft plan.

"Despite the impacts being heavily offset by other reinforcements proposed in this transmission plan, only 1,000 MW of the 1,715 MW of Imperial zone renewable generation portfolio amounts can be made deliverable without additional actions."

In the draft plan, the ISO said it is planning to continue studying a second potential economically driven project, a 60-mile, 500-kV line from Harry Allen to Eldorado in southern Nevada, with expected capital costs of about $120 million. Another area where the ISO said needs more study is the San Francisco peninsula, which was "identified by PG&E as being particularly vulnerable to lengthy outages in the event of extreme ... contingencies."

Recommendations from these studies could be included in the 2013-2014 planning cycle or as part of next year's planning cycle, according to the draft plan.

Twenty-two of the 28 reliability projects that the board approved are expected to cost less than $50 million dollars. The remaining six projects with estimated costs above $50 million accounted for about $1.29 billion of the $1.7 billion expected to be spent on all reliability projects recommended in this year's plan.

The most expensive reliability project approved in this year's plan is an expansion of SoCal Ed's Mesa substation near Monterey Park to include 500-kV service and the connection of the expanded Mesa substation with the 500-kV Vincent-Mira Loma line, the 230-kV Laguna Bell-Rio Hondo line and the 230-kV Goodrich-Laguna Bell line. The project is expected to cost between $464 million and $614 million and be in service by the end of 2020, according to the transmission plan.

SoCal Ed, which proposed the Mesa project, said that the upgrades will "alleviate the increased overall loading on transmission facilities in the LA Metro area resulting from the retirement of [the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and once-through-cooling] generation as well as long-term load growth in the LA Metro and San Diego areas; and reduce the amount of local capacity needed to replace retired generation," according to the draft plan.

For the 2013-2014 transmission planning cycle, the ISO also studied potential transmission projects that would help the state meet its 33% renewable portfolio standard by 2020. Two policy-driven projects costing a total of about $135 million were recommended and approved by the board.

Six of the projects recommended in this year's plan and approved by the board will be eligible to be handled through the ISO's competitive solicitation process, according to the draft plan. The ISO will open a project submission window for companies that want to compete to finance, build and own those projects in April, the ISO said in the draft plan.

--Juliana Brint,
--Edited by Valarie Jackson,