Background: The Salton Sea Study Group Transmission Planning CollaborativeUpdated: October 2004
Mission and Purpose
The Imperial Valley Study Group (formerly Salton Sea Study Group) will specify a phased development plan for the construction of transmission upgrades capable of exporting 2,000 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power from the Imperial Valley region of California. This plan will represent to the extent possible the consensus recommendation of the stakeholder participants in the study group.
This joint planning process is intended to bring the knowledge and interests of key stakeholders together into an upgrade plan providing the greatest statewide benefit at the least cost. The strong support of key stakeholders for this plan will be essential if the recommended upgrades are to survive the inevitable challenges to final siting approval. An essential part of the work of the study group is to lay the foundation for approval and construction of physical transmission upgrades.
California law requires retail sellers of electricity to obtain 20 percent of their supply from renewable sources by 2017. All public power entities in the state have also committed to achieve this goal. The Energy Action Plan adopted in 2003 by the California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission and California Power Authority, and endorsed by the Governor, seeks to accelerate achievement of this goal.
The California Energy Commission and the CPUC have recognized that implementing California's Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) laws will require the construction of significant new transmission capacity. Devising the most cost-effective access to major renewable resource areas will require comprehensive development plans for the phased expansion of such new capacity. Regional planning, in turn, requires the collaboration of affected transmission owners and other key stakeholders.
The Tehachapi Study Group now underway is developing a detailed plan for the phased expansion of upgrades capable of exporting 4,000 MW of wind power from that region. The California Energy Commission identifies 2,142 MW of geothermal electric generating potential in Imperial County. The Salton Sea Study Group (SSSG) will operate on the model of the Tehachapi Study Group for development of this resource.
Collaborative Study Process and Schedule
To help build stakeholder support, the Study Group will operate as a collaborative. It will develop and adopt a study plan, agreed upon by participants, specifying major tasks and a schedule for their completion. The study plan will identify a limited number of upgrade routing alternatives to be evaluated in detail. Power flow studies will be done by the major transmission owners. The CAISO is available to perform economic modeling of selected alternatives. Each participant will pay its own costs.
The study group will establish its own meeting process. It will select a steering committee charged with convening and managing meetings and ensuring that study plan tasks are completed as agreed. It will adopt groundrules to support cooperative group interaction, encourage all participants to express their views, and prevent any party from imposing its interests or dominating discussion. The steering committee may appoint a facilitator to help manage meetings toward this end.
The study group will endeavor to make its work and decision-making as transparent as possible. Minutes of each meeting noting decisions of the group will be reviewed and adopted at the succeeding meeting to establish a written record of the group's progress. Data on planning assumptions will be shared among participants; the study group will devise appropriate methods to safeguard any competitively sensitive or confidential information. In sum, the study group will pursue its technical work in ways that help build stakeholder support for its recommended development plan. Collaboration is essential to the development of this broad support.
Study group participants agree to work in good faith to achieve consensus support for a recommended development plan. If it proves impossible to arrive at a consensus recommendation, the study group will note disagreements with the majority plan and the case for alternative upgrades preferred by dissenting parties.
Major Study Issues
The study group's central task is the detailed technical evaluation of transmission upgrade alternatives for the region, capable of supporting the export of 2,000 MW of geothermal power, leading to the recommendation of a preferred set of upgrades. The study group may, at its discretion, also address related issues in its work, including:
- Development of a program-level EIR covering all the transmission upgrades/routings included in its recommended plan, for purposes of satisfying the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. A comprehensive EIR for the phased development could help expedite permitting and construction. CEQA experts on the CPUC Energy Division staff are available to assist with the development of such a programmatic EIR.
- For jurisdictional utilities, the filing of CPCN application(s) for the first of phased upgrades; for public power entities, the submittal of project proposals to their governing bodies.
- Recommended provisions to ensure cost recovery for transmission construction. This may include seeking guidance from FERC on the treatment of filings for transmission rate recovery.
Participation is open to all interested parties. Key stakeholders include:
- Transmission owners/providers: IID; SDG&E; SCE; WAPA; CAISO.
- Geothermal power companies/generators: CalEnergy; Ormat; Geothermal Energy Association.
- Potential power purchasers: SDG&E; SCE; LADWP, IID and other SCPPA members (Anaheim, Azusa, Banning, Burbank, Cerritos, Colton, Glendale, Pasadena, Riverside; Vernon); WAPA; APS; Salt River Project; SMUD; NCPA.
- Land-based interests: BLM; Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties; California Dept. of Parks and Recreation (Anza Borrego District).
- State Government: California Energy Commission; CPUC Energy Division (CEQA/programmatic EIR).
- Other interested parties: CEERT; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; environmental groups.
Draft Study Plan
SDG&E, IID, CalEnergy and CEERT have jointly identified several expansion planning alternatives to serve as the starting point of a draft study plan. The full stakeholder group will review these alternatives and agree agree on a final study plan, goals, schedule and collaborative work process at its first meeting.
For more Information:
David Olsen (on behalf of the California Energy Commission)
Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT)