Making changes to allow the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) “to add out-of-state balancing authorities as full-scale members will improve the reliability of the Western grid and will help facilitate cost-effective renewables integration without jeopardizing California’s existing clean energy policies,” says the report, which was publicized by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading supporter of the grid-expansion plan proposed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and CAISO.
The report, “Enhanced Western Grid Integration: A Legal and Policy Analysis of the Effects on California’s Clean Energy Laws,” was written by the Environmental Protection Clinic of the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. While Yale’s environment clinic “chooses its own” study projects, NRDC did “encourage” the department to look at the California grid proposal, an NRDC source says.
The report adds to several other studies that CAISO and grid expansion supporters will likely cite to persuade California lawmakers to pass legislation giving CAISO the authority to pursue the expanded grid operator, including a stalled “governance structure” legislative proposal by the Brown administration.
But California Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D) continues to raise concerns about the plan, saying at a press conference earlier this month that it could undermine the state’s clean energy and GHG-reduction programs, and also drive up costs on the state’s utility customers and bring dirtier power to the state.
Some ratepayer advocacy groups have also raised objections to the administration’s proposal.
The Yale study analyzed the legal and policy impacts that a shift to a Western ISO would have on California’s renewable portfolio standard, GHG emissions performance standard, and GHG cap-and-trade program. The emissions performance standard is a GHG limit applying to long-term contracts with baseload power plants. The study also estimated the plan’s benefits for cost savings, integrating renewable power and job creation.
“We find that enhanced Western grid integration — through the creation of a regional ISO — does not interfere with these clean energy policies, and it instead can assist California in meeting its objectives by creating more market opportunities for renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution, and improving the transmission system’s efficiency and reliability,” the report says. “While California’s clean energy policies could be the subject of future legal challenges, the likelihood and prospects of such challenges would not be affected by enhanced Western grid integration.”
The NRDC source calls the study a “strong and timely endorsement for Western grid integration that forcefully rebuts claims that moving from a balkanized system with 38 separate entities to a regional operation could introduce environmental problems, raise costs, or open state energy and climate policies to challenge by federal regulators.”