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Bringing Remote Renewable Energy to Market

September 19, 2007
California consortium to spearhead renewable energy transmission initiative.
Sacramento, California []
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RETI will serve to identify major renewable zones to be developed throughout California. The consortium also plans to establish an order in which transmission lines to these remote areas should be developed.
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Although California is blessed with some of the best geothermal, wind and solar resources in the U.S. -- as well as the policies and legislation in place to do take advantage of those resources -- a number of the renewable energy-rich areas are too far from the electric transmission grid to render them useful.

"We've made tremendous progress developing the transmission plan to bring electricity from the wind-rich Tehachapi Mountain area to Southern California customers. Our goal with RETI is to identify the next Tehachapi."

-- Dian M. Grueneich, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission

In an attempt to alleviate this dilemma, California has formed a public-private partnership called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) to consider the feasibility of building new transmission lines to access renewable generation. The goal is to bring renewable electricity to the grid as it is generated from isolated areas of the state or possibly adjoining states.

"We've made tremendous progress developing the transmission plan to bring electricity from the wind-rich Tehachapi Mountain area to Southern California customers," explained California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Dian M. Grueneich. "Our goal with RETI is to identify the next Tehachapi."

RETI is designed to rapidly develop renewable energy to meet the state's mandate of producing 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and goal of 33 percent by 2020. The CPUC, the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator (California ISO) and representatives of publicly owned utilities, including Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA), are spearheading the initiative.

Transmission lines for electricity from renewable sources becomes critical as predominantly out-of-state coal-fired power plants, which produce approximately 17 percent of California's electricity, begin to provide a smaller percentage of the state's electricity as mandated by the Electricity Emissions of Greenhouse Gases (SB 1368, Perata) to reduce greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.

"Rapid development of renewable resource areas throughout California is necessary to meet this renewable energy goal," said Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron. "RETI should result in transmission solutions that everyone can agree on to bring renewable energy resources to the grid."

The initiative will serve to identify major renewable zones to be developed throughout the state. As envisioned, the consortium also plans to rank all renewable rich resource areas in and around the state to establish an order in which transmission lines to these areas should be developed.

In addition RETI will:

• Operate as a stakeholder planning collaborative and will involve a broad range of participants, first to gather information and advice, and then to build active and consensus support for specific plans for renewable energy and related transmission development;
• Work within the existing planning processes at the California ISO, including any modifications to that planning process resulting from compliance with Order No. 890 of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission;
• Support Energy Commission energy policy development, transmission planning, transmission corridor designation, and power plant siting to help facilitate and coordinate the planning and permitting of renewable energy related transmission and generation and minimize duplication of efforts; and

• Work with the publicly-owned utilities (POUs), investor-owned utilities (IOUs), and developers.

Jim Shetler of SMUD said the initiative "will help the municipal utilities gain better access to renewable resources in order to meet both aggressive renewable energy targets and eventual greenhouse gas reduction goals."

Bill Carnahan of the SPCCA added, "The municipal utilities look forward to adding the output of the RETI effort to our long-term transmission planning process."

On September 20, the group's first public forum will meet to bring the sponsors and stakeholders together to discus the initiative and the process.

Reader Comments (10)
Date Posted:
September 19, 2007

Florida,  the "Sunshine State", is offering a rebate program for solar installations. The Florida Energy Act,  passed in 2006, iprovides incentives for both private as well as commercial structures.  Additionally, a 30% tax incentive was put into place just this month to encourage solar energy growth.

 Frank Colson

Comment 1 of 10
Jim Berry
Date Posted:
September 19, 2007

The lack of adequate infrastructure  is a significant issue  for many renewable engeries, with the notable exception of  solar PV on homes and business. Many of these power sourses are marginally profitable at best  which makes the cost installing 5, 10 or 50 miles of power lines a deal buster. 

Furthermore, the costs don't end just at the point of generation. Some of the state's electrical backbone is already at capacity in many regions including the central valley of the state, which impedes sharing power between Northern and Southern parts of the state. (to the South's beneifit for now).  That's up to 250 miles of high voltage lines needing to be upgraded or there is no capacity to deliever the energy.. Then the communities at both end protest any additional lines being added which causes endless delays. 

Comment 2 of 10
Nick Panchev
Date Posted:
September 21, 2007
Which communities protest? The ESQs “For profit Intervener’s, or the CA ISO “Docketed Appeal before FERC” [Removal of Transmission Barriers] communities? Lets find communities in the vastness of the Southern California Mojave Desert. Have the so and so Wire Co. [private, not IOUs] bid on 230 kV trunk lines at cost of less than $700K/mile, as well as on capacity improvements between Kramer and Lugo substations, not limited to switchyards, with stipulation “Time is of an Essence”, i.e., maximum allowed time of 12 months for permitting and 12 months for construction, or visit the Ninth Circuit, to resolve once and for all that fiasco.  Which facilities are marginally profitable? The existing QFs, or the proposed? May have to invoke "Math 20% by 2010", if the judiciaries seeks “Propounded Interrogatory and Depositions”. There may be another class “Not for Profit Interveners". The “For the Security of United States of America”.org (FTSOUSA)? The status quo and business as usual is over. There are certain ESQs on the other side of the isle.
Comment 3 of 10
William Bernum
Date Posted:
September 21, 2007
Wind and solar power are clean and free. What more can we ask for.  I have a solar panel and it saves me about ten to twenty dollars a month on my heating bill. It was installed in1987 and it just sits there and gives me heat for free all winter long.
Comment 4 of 10
Paul Johnson
Date Posted:
September 21, 2007

Jim, many of the issues you mentioned exist whether they tie in remote RE or not. 

The added cost that must be considered is really the transmission lines to the remote energy and not upgrading systems that must be upgraded regardless of where the power comes from.

With oil above $80/bbl helping to push up all energy prices, RE becomes more and more competitive.  I get excited just thinking about the opportunities.

Comment 5 of 10
John Broughton
Date Posted:
September 21, 2007

Just some thoughts on this, it is a difficult subject that needs extensive study:

It is my understanding that the folks in Europe sat down and determined what their generation capacity would be needed at a future point in time, and then decided to provide subsidies to consumers who would help them achieve their generation goals. So instead of spending large capital outlays on newer power plants they have subsidized smaller distrubuted energy systems with the same projected money requirement.

This is a complex issue that is being researched and reviewed as we speak, which is good.

Most states have already passed laws limiting the size of smaller scale systems. These smaller distributed systems should lessen the load on the grid thereby increasing capacity.

I would recommend being carefull of huge supergrids to desolate areas (similar to oil production, pipelines, shipping, etc...) and focusing on improving the exisiting grid and promotion of smaller distributed energy systems owned and operated by the utilities and property owners. This will provide for a greater economy at the local levels, pride in ownership, environmental respect, energy efficiency awareness, and grid security.


Comment 6 of 10
Michael Hoexter
Date Posted:
September 21, 2007

There is a myth coursing around the renewable energy community that we can  do without larger renewable power installations at the most favorable locations.  These comments overlook  the great variation in renewable energy flux from location to location.  There are some places with poor wind and sun resources and others with much of both.  A windmill or solar panel at one location or region can produce many times the amount of electricity that it can in another region. Transmission lines allow us to substitute  renewable energy sources for  the still cheap coal and other polluting resources. We will never have a shot at substantially reducing our carbon emission unless we use both central and local renewable power.

Unfortunately, some people have  wanted to attach an agenda about the size of society and industrial infrastructure to renewable energy.   If they are right and we need to "re-size" our society,  renewable energy does not necessarily support this argument and they will need to base their arguments on other foundations.

Comment 7 of 10
Don Wood
Date Posted:
September 21, 2007
To be considered by the new RETI process, the sponsor of a proposed transmission line and Cal-ISO should make a public commitment up front that the line in question will be used only to transmit RENEWABLE energy. Every company that wants to build a new ratebase increasing transmission lines, have learned to greenwash their projects by saying them might be used to move renewable energy from remote areas to user centers, but none of them have been willing to publically commit to that happening. The RETI process shouldn't waste time promoting new lines that might be used to transmit fossil fuel energy, it if want to live up to its name.
Comment 8 of 10
Robert Olson
Date Posted:
September 24, 2007





Comment 9 of 10
John Bos
Date Posted:
October 1, 2007
Russell Biomass LLC will construct a 50 MGW biomass (wood chip) electric generating plant in Russell, MA on a 100-year-old industrial brownfield site, restore the town to fiscal stability through our tax payments, provide new jobs, and contribute half of the 100 MGW renewable energy target for western Massachusetts. We will be able to use a five-mile transmission line path that formerly provided electricity to Russell for a paper mill to instead provide electricity from Russell to the power grid. We have agreed to move the transmission line route down the mountain adjacent to the railroad tracks to mitigate any damage to the wildlife habitat. While the town fathers support the biomass plant our NIMBY opponents have protested use of the transmission route in their latest effort to stop the project.

For an object lesson about what it takes to develop a major renewable energy project I refer you to and to www.

Comment 10 of 10


Updated: 2016/06/30

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