A groundbreaking environmental law passed in California last year, Senate Bill 350, charts an ambitious course to fight climate change. It raised the state's renewable energy target to 50 percent by 2030, and designed a framework for development of a western United States electric grid.
In the law, the California ISO was charged with studying the effects and benefits of a regional energy marketplace. It was also tasked with proposing changes in the ISO governance structure to allow out-of-state utilities to participate in a newly formed regional ISO energy network.
Creating an interconnected electric grid in the western states is viewed as a critical component to lowering greenhouse gases, incorporating rising amounts of green energy into the system, and achieving the goal of getting half the state's energy from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal generation.
As outlined in SB 350, a series of studies were conducted to evaluate the impacts of a regional energy system in the following areas:
• Benefits to California ratepayers
• Creation and retention of jobs and other economic benefits to California
• Environmental impacts
• Emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants
• Reliability and integration of renewable energy resources
In February, the ISO began a thorough and transparent process to complete the studies. Some of the leading economics and environmental consultants tackled what would be a pioneering body of evidence regarding regional energy grids.
Meanwhile, the ISO started the job of drafting a governance proposal that would include the voices of stakeholders from states with utilities participating in the regional energy market.
Hundreds of participants have engaged in public workshops, stakeholder calls and regular webinars on the many intricacies of creating a regional grid. The ISO released preliminary study results and a governance structure proposal, collected comments from the public, addressed those concerns and posted the feedback and responses on our website.
Along the way, the ISO provided information and opportunities for public input through diverse channels, including the release of 1.8 gigabytes of underlying data used in the SB 350 studies.
I'm pleased to announce that ISO's commitment to its twin missions have produced final impact studies and a working draft of a governance proposal that will be presented to the California Governor, and may be used to shape legislation. Both will be discussed at a public workshop in Sacramento on July 26. Click here for details on that event.
This edition of Energy Matters will give high-level explanations of the benefits of each SB 350 study and links to the final reports. Generally, the studies found advantages for California and the western region, including cost savings, grid reliability, and major strides in decarbonizing the grid.
Please read on for forecasts on how a regional energy market will potentially affect the key sectors of our state.
Steve Berberich, President and CEO