CPUC ALJ: Prehearing conference on NEET West, PG&E project canceled

A California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) administrative law judge (ALJ), in an April 11 ruling emailed to the parties in the proceeding (A.17-01-023) involving the proposed Estrella Substation and Paso Robles Area Reinforcement Project, said that a prehearing conference that was set for April 21 is canceled.

The CPUC will reschedule the prehearing conference at a later date, the ALJ said.

On March 29, a prehearing conference was noticed in the proceeding to take place on April 13, and on April 3, NextEra Energy Transmission West (NEET West) – one of the two applicants in the matter – submitted a request to continue the prehearing conference. That request was granted, and the prehearing conference was rescheduled to April 21 by a notice issued on April 4.

The ALJ added that since the issuance of that April 4 notice, the Commission Energy Division, which must conduct the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review part of the application, has advised that the April 21 prehearing conference date is not good for its staff, and that its staff would not have completed the initial review of the application by April 21 in order to determine the type of environmental review and/or document that would be required for the proposed projects.

According to the joint application of NEET West and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for permits to build the project, which was filed with the CPUC in January, the companies filed the joint application because each proposes to build, own, operate, and maintain distinct components of a single, integrated project, which provides a reliability driven transmission solution that was identified by the California ISO (Cal-ISO) and approved in its 2013-2014 Transmission Plan.

To prepare that transmission plan, the Cal-ISO conducted a detailed planning assessment for the PG&E Central Coast and Los Padres area, the companies said, adding that the summer and winter peak reliability assessment for the PG&E Central Coast and the summer reliability assessment for the Los Padres area that was performed in 2013 confirmed several reliability concerns – namely, thermal overloads, low voltages and voltage deviations under “Category B” and “Category C” contingency conditions.

To address those thermal overloads and low voltage concerns, as well as to provide the Paso Robles substation with more reinforced 70-kV sources from Templeton and Estrella, the Cal-ISO recommended that the project be built in the area as a part of the mitigation plan, the companies said.

The project includes 230-kV and 70-kV components that together comprise the reliability driven upgrade that the Cal-ISO identified and approved, the companies said. The Cal-ISO identified certain components of the project as being eligible for competition under its tariff and FERC Order 1000, including the new 230-kV buswork and termination equipment, as well as a new 230/70-kV transformer bank (those components are sometimes collectively referred to in the joint application as a 230-kV substation). Following a competitive solicitation process, the companies added, the Cal-ISO awarded those components to NEET West as the approved project sponsor.

The project also includes a number of components that were not eligible for competitive solicitation under the Cal-ISO tariff and that were awarded to PG&E, as the incumbent utility. The companies added that PG&E’s components include the required 70-kV buswork and termination equipment (those components are sometimes collectively referred to in the joint application as a new 70-kV substation), as well as new 230-kV interconnection facilities needed to interconnect NEET West’s new 230-kV substation to existing PG&E 230-kV facilities, a new approximately seven-mile, overhead, 70-kV double-circuit power line, and reconductoring of about three miles of existing PG&E 70-kV power lines.

Further discussing the project components, the companies said that NEET West would build its 230-kV substation components on an approximately 15-acre site located in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., and that PG&E would build its 70-kV substation on the same site.

The fenced portion of the 230-kV substation would be about four acres in size, and under current plans, NEET West would install this equipment within that fenced area: aluminum buses, a three-phase 230/70-kV 200 MVA autotransformer, capacitive voltage transformers, disconnect switches, Sulphur hexafluoride insulated circuit breakers, dead-end steel structures, and lightning arresters.

The 230-kV substation facilities would be connected to PG&E’s system through jumpers from the substation’s dead-end structures to transmission structures located adjacent to the 230-kV substation.

The companies also said that NEET West would build a protection and control enclosure, and that it would install such infrastructure in the 230-kV substation as lighting and signage, telecommunications and distribution feeder line for electrical service, and perimeter security fencing.

The fenced portion of the 70-kV substation that PG&E would build would measure about 3.5 acres, within which PG&E would install transformers, bus structures, circuit breakers, dead-end steel structures, and lightning arresters. PG&E would install a protection and control enclosure, as well as dark sky lighting and signage, a battery enclosure, and a paved internal access road.

PG&E would interconnect the new 230-kV substation into the existing Morro Bay-Gates 230-kV transmission line at two separate locations, a northern and a southern interconnection, the companies added. Additionally, PG&E would interconnect the 70-kV substation into the existing San Miguel-Paso Robles 70-kV line by building about seven miles of new overhead, 70-kV, double-circuit power line between the new 70-kV substation and the existing San Miguel-Paso Robles line.

The companies further noted that PG&E would reconductor about three miles of the existing single-circuit, 70-kV line from the point of connection with the new 70-kV line to the existing Paso Robles substation.

According to “Exhibit E” filed with the application, the estimated total cost of the transmission line components of the project is about $96m.

Among those filing protests with the CPUC is the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), which told the CPUC in its March 6 filing that the project should be evaluated again due to decreasing load on the Cal-ISO grid.

The ORA claimed that following its approval of the project, the Cal-ISO reported significant load reductions region-wide due to energy efficiency and unexpected increases in behind-the-meter supply on the grid in its 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 Transmission Planning Process. As a result of those updated findings, the Cal-ISO recommended canceling 13 previously approved reliability projects, and placing 16 previously approved reliability projects on hold in the PG&E service territory, the ORA said.

Among other things, the ORA said that Cal-ISO is continuing to reevaluate previously approved reliability projects in Southern California Edison’s and San Diego Gas & Electric’s service territories to determine if those projects are still necessary as approved. The Cal-ISO “should also reevaluate the need for the Estrella Project given that these reported load changes occurred region-wide and in the years following the proposed Estrella Project in 2014,” the ORA said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.