No appeals of Tehachapi ruling yet as regulatory deadline approaches

With the deadline to appeal the decision to place the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) underground as it passes through the city of Chino Hills, Calif., just days away, the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) July 11 decision remains uncontested.

Any party granted party status in the case has until Aug. 9 to seek a rehearing of the decision, a CPUC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 5. As of press time, no such appeals appeared on the CPUC docket associated with the case (Docket No. A07-06-031).

While requests for rehearing could come from consumer advocates, renewable power generators or other parties who opposed undergrounding, Southern California Edison’s (SCE) response to the original decision indicated that the project developer might not be among those appealing the decision.

“SCE … is proceeding with engineering and procurement activities to meet the aggressive schedule,” it said in its July 11 statement.

Further, during its 2Q13 earnings call Aug. 1, the president of SCE’s parent company Edison International (NYSE:EIX) sent another signal that it may put the matter behind it.

“We remain concerned about the potential precedent for future transmission lines’ costs but we respect the commission’s decision and will move forward to implement it expeditiously,” Ted Craver, the company’s chairman and CEO, said.

SCE responded to requests for additional information or confirmation of its plans with a statement repeating what Craver said on the conference call. In addition, “Next steps are to finalize some technical and scope questions with the CPUC, finalize the construction plans, and file for rate recovery with FERC based on our estimated capital costs for project completion,” an SCE spokesperson said in an e-mailed response.

Regardless, the company also indicated that the expected cost of undergrounding the line would be more than the $224m approved in the commission’s July 11 decision. Accordingly, the company expects to file a general rate case application during 4Q13 that will include a request for an incremental $360m, which SCE estimates will be the additional cost of undergrounding a single-circuit configuration of the 3.5-mile stretch of Segment 8A of the TRTP as it passes through the city of Chino Hills.

In addition to the higher cost, SCE has said previously that an underground option could jeopardize the project’s planned in-service date of late 2015.

When completed, the 250-mile, $2.5bn, 500-kV project will be capable of moving up to 4,500 MW of renewable energy from wind and solar installations in the state’s renewable-rich Tehachapi area to the load pockets of the Los Angeles basin. SCE has called the $2.5bn Tehachapi project “a critically important, high-voltage transmission line, the timely completion of which is essential for California’s progress toward its aggressive renewable energy goals.”

California’s renewable portfolio standard mandates obtaining 33% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

This article was updated Aug. 6 to include the response provided by SCE.