Cal-ISO stakeholders to discuss proposal to fast-track small transmission builds

Stakeholders will weigh in June 7 on a California ISO (Cal-ISO) straw proposal to change its tariff language and facilitate faster completion of certain transmission “elements” with estimated costs of $50m or less.

Different from “projects,” transmission elements include “the specification of needed facilities where the builder-owner has not yet been determined through the competitive solicitation process.” Projects include both a specification of needed transmission facilities and identification of a specific entity that will build and own the facilities.

The ISO’s tariff has long allowed projects under $50m to be approved by ISO management and proceed to construction prior to the board of directors approving the ISO’s annual transmission plan, thus enabling such small projects to be developed more quickly.

However, the distinction between projects and elements was introduced when the ISO developed its revised transmission planning process (RTPP) in 2010.

“At that time, the ISO did not review the existing management approval tariff provision to consider its interaction with the ‘project’ versus ‘element’ distinction,” Cal-ISO said in its straw proposal. “As a result the provision was not extended to include policy-driven or economically-driven transmission elements under $50 million.”

Amended tariff language contained in the May 31 straw proposal would correct that oversight and allow management to approve transmission elements on an ad hoc basis. Another proposed change would “provide for a separate and advanced competitive solicitation process for management approved elements … ahead of the schedule set out for the annual competitive solicitation process.”

These changes, the ISO believes, are needed to help meet the state’s renewable energy goal in a timely manner.

“Given the relatively rapid pace of negotiation of bilateral contracts for renewable energy to meet the state’s 33% RPS mandate, earlier definitive approval of certain needed transmission upgrades can be critical to the commercial viability of some proposed renewable generating facilities,” according to the straw proposal.

Stakeholder comments are due one week after the June 7 stakeholder call. A final proposal will be posted June 18 and discussed on a second stakeholder call on June 25. The proposal, with stakeholder comments, will go before the ISO’s board of governors meeting July 12 and 13. Tariff changes as approved by the board are expected to be filed July 16.