Southern California Ed nears PUC decision on West of Devers grid project

Up for review at the July 14 meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission is a proposed decision that would grant Southern California Edison a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the West of Devers Upgrade Project, which would be a pathway for generation from new renewable energy projects.

As the lead state agency for environmental review, the commission would, if it grants this approval, certify that the Environmental Impact Report prepared for this project meets the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act and that project benefits of allowing Southern California Edison to comply with its generator interconnection requests, facilitating deliverability for renewable energy resources identified in the commission‟s renewable portfolios, and providing infrastructure that will potentially facilitate achievement of California‟s new 50% Renewable Portfolio Standard outweigh the project‟s unavoidable adverse environmental impacts on air quality, noise, visual resources and cultural resources.

The West of Devers Upgrade Project would replace or upgrade the existing 220-kV transmission lines and associated facilities between Devers, El Casco, Vista, and San Bernardino substations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, increasing the capacity of the West of Devers corridor from the present 1,600 MW to approximately 4,800 MW. SCE also seeks approval of a transaction between SCE and the Morongo Transmission LLC that would provide SCE with access to a right-of-way across Morongo tribal land for construction of a portion of the upgrade project.

SCE originally sought approval of the West of Devers upgrades along with a CPCN to construct the Devers-Palo Verde No. 2 Transmission Line Project (DPV2). As originally proposed in that application, DPV2 was comprised of two major transmission lines, a 500-kV line between the Harquahala area of Arizona and the Devers Substation in North Palm Springs, and a 220-kV system west of the Devers Substation that included the West of Devers upgrades that are the subject of the application now before the commission.

The commission ultimately found the West of Devers upgrades to be infeasible because the Morongo Tribe had informed SCE that they were unacceptable. Accordingly, the commission approved DPV2 with the Devers-Valley No. 2 alternative substituting for the West of Devers upgrades, recognizing that additional transmission upgrades west of Devers may be needed in the future and that SCE and the Morongo Tribe may continue to negotiate a new right-of-way agreement for that purpose.

After the Arizona Corporation Commission denied SCE authority to construct the interstate portion of the project, SCE petitioned the California commission to modify a project approval to allow it to construct only the California portions of the project. The California commission determined that the prior finding of economic need did not apply to the California-only project. However, the commission determined that the California-only project was nevertheless needed because it would:

  • allow access to significant potential renewable resources, particularly proposed large-scale solar projects in the Riverside East Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ);
  • be located in existing transmission rights-of-way and its environmental impacts would thereby be minimized; and
  • access the Riverside East CREZ without significant time delays in terms of environmental review and significant cost.

Accordingly, the commission granted the petition. SCE has now obtained a new rights-of-way agreement with the Morongo Tribe that permits SCE‟s existing facilities and the West of Devers Upgrade Project to cross the Reservation, which the Morongo Tribe may terminate if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the California PUC fail to approve the Development and Coordination Agreement by and between SCE and Morongo Transmission that provides Morongo Transmission with an option to invest up to $400 million at the time of commercial operation of the project in exchange for 30-year lease rights.

SCE, supported by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and solar developers NextEra Energy Resources LLCPalen Solar Holdings LLC and EDF Renewable Energy Inc., contends that the proposed project is needed to meet interconnection requests and comply with executed generator interconnection agreements and to facilitate renewable development to meet state policy goals.

At the time that SCE filed this application, CAISO and SCE generation interconnection studies identified 10 projects in the Blythe and Desert Center areas totaling 2,479 MW requesting Full Capacity Deliverability Status (FCDS) interconnection, of which 1,485 MW was reflected in executed interconnection agreements. As of April 2015, there was 2,460 MW of capacity of generation projects in the areas requesting interconnection, of which 1,635 MW was reflected in executed interconnection agreements. As of October 2015, there was 6,090 MW of generation project capacity in the areas requesting FCDS interconnection, of which 1,859 MW is reflected in executed generator interconnection agreements, and of which 860 MW is under executed power purchase agreements. The West of Devers Upgrade Project is necessary to bring this renewable generation to the grid.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.