California Senate appropriations committee takes up ISO regionalization bill

Source: By Peter Maloney, Utility Dive • Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2018

  • A bill that would move California toward forming a regional ISO is under consideration in the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • The bill, A.B. 813, calls for the appropriation of about $737,000. Any bill with a fiscal impact of $50,000 or more is put in a “suspense file” until appropriations can review it.

  • The appropriations committee is the last Senate committee looking at the bill. If passed, it will be sent back to the Assembly for a final vote.

California policymakers have been pushing hard for a regional market that would encompass all the western states for years, but opponents have been pushing just as hard to kill the bill.

A.B. 813, which would make regionalization legally possible, has moved through the energy and utilities and the judiciary committees.

“We are pleased that lawmakers have thus far moved this bill along,” California ISO spokesman Steven Greenlee told Utility Dive.

Proponents of the bill say it would boost renewable power in California in the West by expanding the footprint of the ISO and allowing resources to move where needed. So excess solar power in San Diego could be shipped to Washington and wind power in Wyoming could be shipped to California.

A study the CAISO commissioned on the potential benefits of regionalization found it could save electric power customers up to $1.5 billion through liquidity — mitigation of transmission congestion, for instance — and optimization such as being able to move renewable resources around to where they are needed.

Critics are just as adamant about the potential downsides.

“We hate it,” Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network (TURN), told Utility Dive. “This is happening at the wrong time for an unknown reason. We see the federal government opposing all of California’s energy rules and policies every step of the way.”

One of the concerns that TURN and similar groups have is that regionalization would mean that California would join forces with coal producing states. “Where is the advantage to California consumers,” Spatt asked. “The supposed advantages are so speculative and out of our control.”

Meanwhile, the appropriations committee has a Friday deadline for moving the legislation, and the legislative session ends on Aug. 31.

A.B. 813 originated in the Assembly, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, but the bill has since gone through different versions.