In summary

California’s existing transmission system can accommodate new resources with six relatively small planned transmission upgrades.

By Simon Baker, San Francisco

Simon Baker is the interim deputy executive director for energy & climate policy at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Re: “California’s electric grid is not ready to meet climate goals”; Commentary, Jan. 26, 2022

I wanted to assure readers that California is indeed planning for a major, unprecedented build-out of clean energy resources in the next decade – 42,000 megawatts, enough clean energy to power more than 11.6 million homes, as well as the transmission upgrades needed to bring that energy to where it is consumed.

California’s planning demonstrates that the existing transmission system can accommodate all of these new resources with six relatively small planned transmission upgrades, some of which could be completed within 18 months. 

Beyond that, the state’s energy agencies and the California Independent System Operator have been working for several years to map out the resources and transmission needs to meet our clean energy goals. In addition to its customary 10-year transmission plan, the Independent System Operator this week released a groundbreaking 20-year Transmission Outlook to help guide transmission planning to meet the state’s very ambitious carbon reduction goals. 

The guest commentary also paints curtailment of renewable power as a major concern. While solar and wind curtailment have grown in recent years, it still represents a tiny fraction of overall wind and solar generation in California, growing from 0.9% to 2.8% since 2016, and having declined from 3.4% in 2020.

Curtailment is a byproduct of the success of the state’s policies – the tremendous growth in solar and wind generation – and a tool used by the Independent System Operator to integrate these renewable resources while maintaining system reliability. And as we increasingly rely on other tools, such as the Western Energy Imbalance Market that allows sharing of resources among western states, battery storage, demand response and time of use ratemaking, its use will continue to decline. 

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