Chino Hills supports SoCalEd request to modify order to underground Tehachapi project

The city of Chino Hills, Calif., is supporting a request by Southern California Edison (SCE) that state regulators modify their July 11 decision regarding the design of a 3.5-mile stretch of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) that will be placed underground, and allow the utility to build the underground portion of the project as it had originally been designed (Docket No. 07-06-031).

SCE’s design included voltage control equipment, also referred to as reactive compensation, to mitigate the risk of flashover when one end of the transmission line is open. However, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) determined that SCE had not justified the cost of, or need for, voltage control, and suggested that an increase in the basic insulation level (BIL) rating could be used instead of voltage control equipment to mitigate the same risk. The CPUC ultimately ordered the utility to study a potential BIL standard rather than authorize the use of voltage control.

SCE disagreed and, on Sept. 9, filed a petition for modification.

In its Oct. 1 response to SCE’s petition, Chino Hills acknowledged that SCE had provided sufficient factual evidence to warrant the removal of the requirement to perform the BIL study and, instead, to install voltage control. Further, the city noted the evidence submitted by SCE with its petition for modification “was not before the commission when it issued” its July decision, but was included with the petition.

However, the city stopped short of complete agreement with SCE’s position regarding the expected project cost.

In its petition for modification, the utility acknowledged that the installation of voltage control equipment would cause the underground portion of the project to exceed the $224m cap authorized by the CPUC in its July order. Rather than seeking an increase in the cap in its petition for modification, the utility asked that the commission “address the issue when SCE seeks to amend the commission’s maximum prudent cost finding for the overall project.”

While the city agreed that the cost cap of $224m “includes neither voltage control nor an allowance for the additional cost of an increase to the BIL rating … and thus is too low,” the city opposed eliminating the cost cap altogether.

“While Chino Hills acknowledges that the cost cap will need to be adjusted to account for whatever level of voltage control is ultimately authorized by the commission, it submits that modifying [the July decision] to eliminate all findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the cost cap is unwarranted and unnecessary,” the city said.

When completed, the 250-mile, $2.5bn, 500-kV project will be capable of moving up to 4,500 MW of renewable energy from the Tehachapi, Calif., area to population centers in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in California.

SCE has called the 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 calls for 33% renewable energy by 2020.

SCE is a subsidiary of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).