Schwarzenegger proposes one-stop permitting for CA transmission, renewables

Greenwire (subs. req’d) reports:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is proposing a single-stop permitting agency for electricity transmission and renewable energy projects.

The proposed state Energy Department would consolidate permitting efforts divided among at least nine agencies.

Expanding transmission, seen as a key to grid stability and achieving goals of expanding the use of renewable energy, is often hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape and lawsuits. And nowhere are the hurdles higher than in California.

Building a transmission line takes about five to seven years in most states, but it takes 10 to 12 years in California, as in the case of the Sunrise Powerlink, a recently approved line to San Diego that was first proposed in 2001 and will not be built until at least 2012.

Transmission is obviously a key bottleneck for achieving the clean energy transition (see “A smart, green grid is needed to enable a near-term renewable revolution“). Kudos to Arnold for pursuing a one-stop-shop to speed things up. Here’s the rest of the story:

Schwarzenegger, who hopes to shorten that process considerably, will submit his plan to the Legislature later this year, spokeswoman Lisa Page said.

“The goal is to help California focus on energy stability and to ensure coordination across agencies,” Page said. “We have a very aggressive goal of 33 percent renewables by 2020 and reducing greenhouse gases, so given those aggressive goals, this will help streamline projects so we can get more renewable energy.”

There is also growing interest in Washington in clearing transmission gridlock. President Obama’s energy and climate coordinator, Carol Browner, said Sunday that she supports the creation of an inter-agency team to handle transmission siting. Speaking to a group of Western governors, including Schwarzenegger, she said a one-stop permitting authority might smooth efforts to build power lines in the West (Greenwire, Feb. 23).

Schwarzenegger first floated the idea of a state DOE in 2004, saying California needed a stronger energy policy to recover from the state’s 2000-01 power crisis, in which efforts to deregulate the electricity market led to gaming by energy companies and a series of rolling blackouts. The crisis inhibited investment in the state’s grid.

Details are scant on the new Schwarzenegger plan, but one key move would remove the Public Utilities Commission’s authority over transmission line siting and renewable power projects over 50 megawatts, according to the governor’s office.

Schwarzenegger’s 2004 proposal “completely dismantled” the State Lands Commission, which is in charge of all oil and gas drilling on state lands and offshore, said Paul Thayer, the commission’s executive director. For transmission projects, the commission often serves as the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act. It also oversees applications for solar projects on some desert tracts and for offshore energy projects.

Thayer said he did not know what Schwarzenegger intended to do this time with his agency, which was established in 1938 to oversee the use of public lands to generate revenue for schools. “We haven’t been consulted or have any idea what’s going to happen,” he said.

Other affected agencies are the California Energy Commission, the California Power Authority, the Electricity Oversight Board, the California Energy Resources Scheduling Division, the Department of General Services, the Office of Planning and Research and the Office of the State Architect.

2 Responses to Schwarzenegger proposes one-stop permitting for CA transmission, renewables

  1. The problem with the myriad proposals for increased transmission in California are several fold.

    Renewable energy advocates believe that *only* renewable energy should be permitted on these new proposed lines. This is, of course, insane as it demonstrates they know nothing about WHY we need new transmission lines, north south and in the southtland, east to west. The ONLY important issue is grid reliability. You can’t *restrict* access to a HVDC line when power is needed hither and dither around the state. The population will not stand for this.

    The second set are those that want to prioritize renewable power into the grid. This also has little popular support and is very hard to actually implement especially as the rate payers, not the alternative energy producers, have to pay for the lines.

    Lastly, be “favoring” renewables over hydro from California and Nevada, nuclear from S. California and Arizona, grid stability is not only threatened, but it gives an ridiculous competitive advantage to the electrons produced by wind and solar. Such sources of power have to stand on their own, unsubsidized, economy.


  2. Jan says:

    The problem with one-stop shopping for transmission lines is their environmental impact gets shoved aside for expediency.

    Renewables done wrong can be nearly as harmful as fossil fuels. It seems to me the problem is that we know too much (we understand the value of undisturbed and/or healthy ecosystems) and we know too little (how much of an ecosystem has to be preserved to sustain the benefits to the life it supports and the functioning of the planet).

    Had we started our energy transition in the Carter years, we would have had time to move carefully so as not to create another environmental disaster by running roughshod over natural plant and animal communities. Frankly, I don’t trust our ability to make good siting decisions for renewable energy factories or the transmission lines that they require — not when cost or line loss or ease of construction is involved.

    One of the great argument for wind turbines (at least in Kansas) is that they can be built on already disturbed land — cropland. Yet every single project so far in this state has been sited on native grasslands.

    Joe, have you looked into ‘microgrids’ – local, redundant energy sources that can connect or disconnect to the utility grids? Would such systems ease the need for so many new transmission lines?