SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Other Western states would share oversight of California’s power grid under a plan introduced by a state lawmaker that supporters say would save as much as $1.5 billion a year and run the system more efficiently.
Critics have said the proposal by Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden would surrender California’s control over its own electricity system.
Lawmakers are reviewing a series of amendments Holden introduced late last week to alter the structure of the governing body that oversees the California Independent System Operator, which runs the electric grid for much of the state.
California currently operates with a glut of power plants and is at times forced to pay other states to take its excess solar and wind power, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
“This is going to be good for the ratepayers of California,” Holden, of Pasadena, said of the amendments, which revive a concept long pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.
Holden’s proposal came just days before the legislative session concludes Friday. That outraged critics who said such a dramatic change to control of the electricity transmission system should not happen without thorough public vetting in scheduled hearings.
Opponents also contend that the assumptions suggesting substantial savings from a regional operation are faulty and that California ratepayers would face cost increases on electric bills that are already high.
The legislation “would permanently eliminate state authority over the governance of the California Independent System Operator … based on determinations made by an ad hoc commission, a result that is unacceptable as a matter of law, policy and process,” Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, which represents consumers before state regulators, said in a letter to lawmakers.
Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said the regionalization proposal is “the product of years of discussion and input from all parties” and “creates a process to work through issues related to the governing board of a regional grid.”
Debate has raged for years over the role of the California Independent System Operator — whether it should be a regional entity that manages the electricity grid throughout the West or a California-centric operation.
Cal-ISO operates the long-distance power transmission lines for about three-quarters of California’s power customers, while municipal utilities such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power run the rest.
Cal-ISO spokeswoman Anne Gonzales told the newspaper that regionalizing the grid operator would improve management of all electricity resources in California and other Western states.
Although the states already are connected and share electricity, a combined electricity grid operator would enable better coordination among the states, she said.
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