Gino DiCaro

Legislative Focus on Electricity Transmission

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, March 4, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Since the 2000-2001 electricity crisis, most of the new power plants slated for construction in California have been postponed or canceled due to a combination of factors including low wholesale electricity prices, the Enron scandal, regulatory uncertainty and reluctance by Wall Street to finance new electricity generation projects.

But if you think getting a power plant built in California is an uphill battle, try building a transmission line.

In the last two decades, only one major new transmission line has been built in the state, the recently completed Path 15 expansion project. The main reasons for the lack of new transmission projects are financial uncertainty in energy markets and the difficulty of raising capital for large energy projects and local opposition to the projects, the so-called NIMBY (not in my backyard) concerns.

Bringing more power online, through new power plants and transmission projects, are tasks as important as any facing California today.

First of all, the Path 15 expansion, a public-private partnership that came in $250 million under budget, should serve as a model for future transmission projects. Second, the state should study ways and act quickly to improve the transmission siting process. Both of these goals are strongly supported by the Schwarzenegger Administration, which has made increased investment in the state's energy infrastructure a top priority.

Meanwhile, two bills have been introduced in the Legislature dealing with transmission corridors.

SB 1059 (Martha Escutia, D-Whittier) authorizes the California Energy Commission to designate a transmission corridor on which future transmission projects could be built. The bill specifies a procedure for designation of the corridor, which would include:

* Request for comments;
* Coordination with federal agencies and Native American governments;
* Information and adjudicatory hearings; and a
* Proposed decision;

Additionally, the bill requires each city and county in which a designated corridor is located to integrate the designated corridor in their land use plans and ordinances.

AB 974, by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), requires the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission to meet at least once a month to discuss the state’s electrical transmission system and to submit regular reports to the Legislature.
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