Meeting State Energy Mandates May Call for Transmission Expansion to Access Renewables, Report Says

Meeting California’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals?

That may necessitate expansion of the state’s electricity transmission infrastructure and increasing access to new renewable power sources, both within and outside the state.

That was one of the assessments offered in a multi-agency state report, released last week, called the preliminary Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) 2.0 report.

Transmission development and new renewable energy sources could help the state meet the mandates set by Senate Bill 350, which calls for generating half of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and Senate Bill 32, which requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, the report said.

“California is leading the world as we work to meet our clean energy goals,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “We are pursuing an integrated strategy, and looking ahead at least 15 years to make sure we’re doing the right things now to develop the options we’ll need then. The RETI 2.0 process is helping the state’s energy agencies, utilities, renewable industry, and residents narrow down our focus on where we might need new transmission.”

The RETI 2.0 report seeks to identify areas where utility-scale renewable energy can be accessed and where opportunities exist to develop electricity transmission.

Doing so will require taking advantage of California’s abundant renewable resources. The report said utility solar photovoltaic is cost competitive across much of California. Wind energy is already a major part of California’s portfolio, and evolving wind turbine technology could allow the sourcing of wind energy at a broader array of sites. California is also home to several geothermal energy areas, with valuable energy qualities.

Tapping renewable energy in some of the state’s most renewable-rich areas such as the San Joaquin Valley, Imperial Valley, and the desert is feasible due to extensive planning efforts by local officials and stakeholders, the report found, but may require new transmission.

The RETI 2.0 effort is a statewide initiative sponsored by the California Natural Resources Agency, the Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Independent System Operator (California ISO) and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The report includes the work of three significant foundational reports. One of those is the RETI 2.0 Western States Outreach Project Report, authored by interests outside the state of California. That report found that greater cooperation among partners in the West would open additional opportunities to increasing access to renewable energy.

Access to low-cost renewable supplies and renewable markets outside California can add to the diversity of renewable power resources while also opening up markets for excess in-state power generation. This would serve to reduce consumers’ costs, the draft RETI 2.0 report said.

Development of the preliminary RETI 2.0 report involved extensive, public discussions with stakeholders at more than a dozen workshops over a 13-month period.

Release of the report to the public today begins a public comment period extending until January 10. The final RETI 2.0 report is expected to be finalized by the end of January 2017.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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