Renewable projects get big boost from California PUC’s ‘West of Devers’ order

The California Public Utilities Commission on Aug. 29 issued a final written order granting Southern California Edison a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the West of Devers Upgrade Project, configured with the Tower Relocation and Iowa Street 66-kV Undergrounding Alternatives and subject to certain mitigation measures.

As the lead state agency for environmental review, the commission found and certified 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 now-approved project would replace or upgrade the existing 220-kV transmission lines and associated facilities between the 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 originally sought approval of the West of Devers upgrades in an application for a CPCN to construct the Devers-Palo Verde No. 2 Transmission Line Project (DPV2). As originally proposed, 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. 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 its plan 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).

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 this commission fail to approve the Development and Coordination Agreement (DCA) 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, contended 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, the CAISO and SCE generation interconnection studies identified 10 generation 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.

Among the commission’s findings of fact in the Aug. 29 order were:

  • The West of Devers Upgrade Project will allow SCE to comply with its generator interconnection requests.
  • The West of Devers Upgrade Project will facilitate deliverability for renewable energy resources identified in the commission‟s renewable portfolios in furtherance of California‟s 33% RPS.
  • The West of Devers Upgrade Project will provide infrastructure that will potentially facilitate achievement of California‟s new 50% RPS.

The reasonable and prudent maximum cost cap for the West of Devers Upgrade Project is $1.01 billion, including contingency. The commissio noted that SCE should consult with the Energy Division on whether an application, advice letter or a petition for modification would be more appropriate in the event that it seeks to revise the cost cap.

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.