A major barrier to the development of RPS projects is access to transmission. California’s transmission system is constrained, and renewable resources are often located far from load centers and existing transmission lines.
Problem: Renewable resources are often located far from the grid and load centers, requiring permitting and construction of extensive and expensive transmission lines. Large transmission projects are needed, however, to access distant geographic areas that have economic renewable resources.
- Solution: The Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) is a statewide, multi-stakeholder initiative to identify the transmission projects needed to accommodate the state’s renewable energy goals and facilitate transmission planning and permitting. RETI will have completed the first phase of its review by the end of 2008 and will have ranked the competitive renewable energy zones in California and neighboring states.
- Problem: Renewable resources are often location-constrained. Multiple renewable projects are often located within a renewable resource area, yet the costs to interconnect to the transmission grid are cost-prohibitive for a single project.
- Solution: The California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO’s) new Location-Constrained Resource Interconnection process provides a framework for planning and sharing the costs of large transmission facilities that interconnect location-constrained renewable resource areas.
- Problem: The CAISO’s large generator interconnection procedure (LGIP) to interconnect generating facilities to the grid was not designed to interconnect numerous renewable projects located far from load and the existing grid. LGIP has not been able to address the dramatic increase in renewable development over the past two years. As a result, the CAISO has a backlog of renewable projects waiting for an interconnection study.
- Solution: The CAISO established the Generation Interconnection Process Reform (GIPR) to reform its interconnection procedures and address the needs of renewable projects. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved the reforms, and the CAISO is working to implement the new process.
- GIPR is expected to increase the speed and efficiency of studying interconnection requests by planning common transmission solutions for groups of generation projects and integrating such planning into the CAISO annual transmission planning process. The GIPR proposal intends to complete the first set of interconnection cluster studies by the second quarter of 2010, which will help clear much of the backlog.
- Problem: Transmission planning and approval involves substantial lead time and various interdependent evaluations and approval processes. The state lacks a coordinated and efficient process to support expedited review and approval of proposed transmission lines that respects jurisdictional boundaries and statutory obligations, while allowing entities to benefit from information-sharing and coordinated review. As a result, it can take 7-10 years to plan, permit, and construct a new transmission line.
- Solution: The CPUC is beginning to coordinate resource and transmission planning, procurement, and policy. For example, the renewable transmission policy proceeding is exploring proactive transmission permitting to further streamline the Certificate for Public Necessity and Convenience (CPCN) CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review process. The Long Term Procurement Plan (LTPP) proceeding is standardizing assumptions and inputs that the IOUs will use to develop their LTPPs, which could be incorporated into CPCN proceedings when determining need for a transmission line. This type of coordination could help inform future review of transmission projects.