California ISO CEO is ‘confident’ in getting transmission in place for renewable integration

California ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich said April 12 that he is “confident we can get the transmission in place” necessary to integrate renewable energy.

“[T]he [state] Public Utility Commission and the California Energy Commission [have] come together to give us resource portfolios – you see them in Texas as CREZ,” he said, speaking at a media breakfast in Washington, D.C. “Those resource portfolios are driving transmission…and we’re finding we don’t need some of the other transmission that was originally slated.”

It is also important to keep in mind that two transmission projects currently being built, the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project and the Sunrise Powerlink, will provide a bulk of the renewable energy needed for the state to meet its 33% renewable portfolio standard, Berberich said.

According to TransmissionHub data, the Sunrise Powerlink, being built by San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), is a 117-mile, 500-kV line that will carry renewable energy from El Centro to San Diego, Calif.

The Tehachapi project, sponsored by Southern California Edison (SCE), involves 250 miles of combination 500-kV and 220-kV lines and upgrades, according to TransmissionHub. When complete, the project is estimated to cost about $2.2bn.

The Sunrise Powerlink, Berberich said, “is supposed to be in probably this summer, so a good chunk of transmission is going to be done in short order.”

He said, “This portfolio effect and the transmission underway puts us in a really good position.”

In response to how much the Cal-ISO is relying on the Sunrise Powerlink coming online this summer, Berberich noted that the project provides additional import capability into San Diego. Furthermore, it helps on a contingency basis because it basically parallels the Southwest Powerlink, he said.

In March, the Cal-ISO said a potential extended outage at SCE’s San Onofre nuclear generating station will change the summer electricity outlook for local areas in Southern California. Among the industry contingency planning is accelerating the completion of such projects as the Sunrise Powerlink, the Cal-ISO said.

Berberich said California is making “good strides” in meeting its renewable energy target, noting that “a good chunk” of the renewable energy on the grid now is wind, “but we’re seeing a far higher proportion in our interconnection queue of solar.”

He said the Cal-ISO is dealing with the variability of renewable energy by investing heavily in forecasting and various other technologies, saying, “we have to be experts in meteorology now because we need to know when the wind is going to blow and when the sun will shine and how much production we can get out of that.”

Among other things, he said many of the things needed to operate under a heavy penetration of renewables cost money, adding: “What we’re interested in is finding a way to green the grid as cost-effectively as we possibly can and things like demand response play a role in making it far less costly. That’s really what’s driving us – the need to have flexibility, as well as the need to reduce costs.”

Berberich told TransmissionHub after his presentation that the Cal-ISO has run some pilots on energy storage, noting that there is plenty of pumped storage on the system, but not a lot of battery storage. “Our market can support it, we can dispatch it, but it’s a matter of people investing in it,” he said of battery storage.

SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE). SCE is a subsidiary of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.