CAISO Approves $7.3 Billion Transmission Plan with Clean Energy Focus

by | May 22, 2023

Utility lines against a yellow California sky.

(Credit: Canva Pro)

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO)’s Transmission Plan was recently approved for the next year, which includes a proposal for transforming the process of connecting new resources, including renewable energy to the grid.

CAISO’s Transmission Plan for 2022-23 identified 45 projects for system expansion and upgrades, amounting to an estimated cost of $7.3 billion over the next decade, and is an example of the state’s commitment to infrastructure development.

As the plan was developed in collaboration with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission, the state’s long-term clean energy goals were addressed in coordination with forthcoming infrastructure investments. With the plan’s implementation, California will support more than 40 gigawatts of new resource development, facilitating the state’s clean-energy goals for the next 10 years.

As electrification continues to expand in various sectors such as transportation and buildings, California will require even more power in the years to come. The next transmission plan, projected for the following year, is expected to identify the need for an additional 70 GW by 2033, eventually increasing to 120 GW. 

If these targets are met, it will bring California closer to its goal of achieving a carbon-free power system by 2045.

CAISO’s Transmission Plan & Infrastructure Goals

One notable aspect of this year’s transmission plan is its proactive approach to infrastructure investment. The plan focuses on designated geographic zones that offer economic and operational advantages for resource development. There are five projects outlined in CAISO’s 2022-23 plan, many of which focus on energy procurement in key transmission zones. 

Phased Infrastructure Investment

The transmission projects entail significant investments that will be implemented over a period of eight to 10 years. The estimated cost ranges from $4 million to $2.3 billion, totaling $7.3 billion. These costs are expected to be spread out and translate to less than 0.5 cents per kilowatt-hour over the life of the projects. Consumer costs will be determined through the rate design process conducted between utilities and regulatory authorities.

To address the increasing number of interconnection requests received by CAISO, the board approved initiatives to enhance the evaluation and processing of applications to connect to the grid. These improvements aim to streamline the process and ensure the prioritization of resources in areas aligned with the state’s resource planning. CAISO will make necessary adjustments to manage the schedule for pending applications and is actively working on longer-term process changes and broader reforms.

In addition to the transmission plan, the CAISO Board of Governors and the Western Energy Imbalance Market governing body approved a day-ahead market enhancements initiative. The enhancements contribute to the efficiency of the day-ahead market, considering the increasing variability of resources in the transition to a cleaner energy mix.

CAISO’s plan’s implementation will support significant resource development and bring the state closer to achieving its clean energy goals. The proactive approach to planning and resource synchronization ensures a more efficient and cost-effective path to a carbon-free power system.

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