California governor postpones CAISO expansion
Efforts to pass legislation that would be required for expanding the California Independent System Operator market and merging it with Portland-based PacifiCorp has been put on hold, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced this week in a letter.
The new regional transmission system would stretch from California through parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. CAISO currently has 26,000 miles of transmission lines only in California, and PacifiCorp has 16,500 miles.
The proposed grid regionalization began as part of an effort to improve efficiency and cut greenhouse gases, but California legislators, environmental groups and a number of public power utilities have sought to slow the process as plans took shape for CAISO to merge with PacifiCorp.
Many parties expressed concern about rushing into such a dramatic change in the markets without a reliable demonstration of benefits. Recent comments from the California Municipal Utilities Association stated that: “Near term benefits for the CAISO/PacifiCorp footprint are negligible. The claimed few millions of dollars annually in operational savings is simply not large enough to warrant rushing resolution of key market issues.”
While some environmental groups support the effort as a means to better integrate variable renewable energy, others say the regional grid will increase the reliance on coal-fired generation.
“This study confirms our worst fears,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California, said in a statement about an environmental study of the restructuring. “If not done with the right partners, a regional power market could increase greenhouse gas emissions and prop up out-of-state coal plants that threaten clean air and water across the region.”