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California Legislation Drops Bill to Expand Western Power Grid

Sept. 5, 2018
The bill would have eliminated barriers between the 38 independent systems across the Western states

The AB 13 bill to expand the power grid in the West failed to reach the California Senate Floor last week. The bill would have eliminated barriers between the 38 independent systems across the Western states and created a full regional electricity market. 

Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D) on Friday said the bill, AB 813, would not come to the Senate floor for a vote. “We will continue this important discussion next year,” Atkins said.

Supporters have been trying on and off for years to pass legislation that would enable “regionalization,” according to a report from the American Public Power Association (APPA). The current bill passed the Assembly in a 78-2 vote last June. The bill was also strongly supported by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who said expanding the scope of CAISO is essential in order for California to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Brown and other proponents say a regional grid would boost the use of renewables and prompt power costs to fall, Bloomberg News reported. Critics warned that such a plan could prop up Western coal-fired plants and allow greater oversight from the Trump administration.

Public Power utilities in the Northwest were generally supportive of the bill, Donald Furman, director of the advocacy group Fix the Grid Coalition, told APPA.

“We thought it didn’t have all the right ingredients to do it properly,” Barry Moline, executive director of the California Municipal Utilities Association, said in reference to AB 813. “We thought it was anti-consumer.”

Many of the issues could have been addressed easily, but they were not addressed, Moline said. For instance, CMUA wanted a market advisory committee included in the RTO’s governance structure that would have included consumer groups, APPA reported.

CAISO itself supported AB 813. It would have enabled “an efficient and economical way for the state to meet its renewable energy mandates, while lowering electricity costs and reducing pollution,” CAISO spokesman Steven Greenlee said in a statement.

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