California ISO Board Approves 10-Year Transmission Plan

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) Board of Governors on March 17 approved a 10-year transmission plan for the grid operator.

The plan identified 23 projects estimated to cost $2.9 billion for system expansions, upgrades, and reinforcements needed for reliability and to meet the state’s clean-energy targets efficiently and cost-effectively for the next 10 years, CAISO said.

The latest plan reflects an escalation in the need for new transmission, the grid operator said. The increase is attributed to rapid acceleration in the need for new generation driven by the state’s goals of getting all electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045, and further electrifying the transportation, industrial, and residential sectors, it said.

In the past few years, CAISO’s plans have shown increased amounts of energy and transmission coming onto the grid.

Last year’s 2020-2021 transmission plan was based on projections that about 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new resources would be needed annually over the 10-year planning horizon. Next year’s plan is currently projected to assume a requirement of more than 4,000 MW of new resources per year.

The plan approved last week is based on an intermediate level of about 2,700 MW of new resources per year.

The latest transmission plan also outlines the role for a widening and expanding set of diverse resources to meet clean energy goals, including geothermal, new out-of-state renewables, and future offshore wind generation, CAISO said.

Closely coordinated with the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission, the grid operator’s planning cycle runs from every January to early in the subsequent year. The actual plan, which relies heavily on state agency input and data to make sure it is aligned with California’s energy policies, also gets reviewed through a comprehensive and intensive stakeholder process. Projects are analyzed from the perspective of reliability, public policy, and economic benefits to consumers.

Now that it has been approved, the plan will guide collaborative activities for the implementation of the newly approved projects, including initiating a competitive solicitation process for four of the higher-voltage projects.

Approval of the plan also sets in motion contractual agreements and cost recovery for transmission upgrades through CAISO transmission rates.

For the first time ever, the CAISO has also produced a 20-Year Transmission Outlook in addition to its yearly plan.

While the 10-year plan is required by CAISO’s federal tariff and identifies specific projects for construction, the longer outlook is designed to provide a framework and longer-term vision for the system’s future transmission needs without recommending specific projects for approval.