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California ISO Releases First-Ever 20-Year Transmission Outlook

Feb. 3, 2022
Draft outlines long-term infrastructure needs to meet clean energy goals.

To help enable and accelerate the integration of new renewable electricity resources onto the grid, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) has published a draft of its first-ever 20-Year Transmission Outlook.

The long-range blueprint for the interconnected high-voltage system was developed at the same time as the ISO’s customary annual 10-year Transmission planning process. 

“There is a critical need for more proactive, long-term transmission planning and coordination,” said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO, ISO . “In developing the 20-year Outlook, we have worked closely with the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and a diverse group of stakeholders to begin delineating the long-term architecture of the California grid and better align power and transmission planning, resource procurement and interconnection queuing. This type of forward-looking planning and coordination is essential to meeting the state’s energy policy goals in a reliable and cost-effective fashion and strengthening interconnections with our partners across the West.”

Over the past year, the ISO collaborated with the CEC and CPUC to evaluate diverse generating resources, land-use patterns and transmission alternatives. Primary drivers of the 20-year roadmap are the state’s goals of getting all electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045, and further electrifying the transportation, industrial, and residential sectors. 

The draft Outlook is based on the planning assumption that nearly 120 gigawatts (GW) will need to be added to the energy grid by 2040 to meet California’s rising demand for electricity, including utility scale solar, energy storage, geothermal, offshore wind plants and clean-energy resources from out-of-state. The 20-year Transmission Outlook will help expedite key decisions about optimal power and transmission development options and guide the interconnection of new resources to the grid. 

With typical lead times of eight to 10 years for many of these transmission projects, it is critical to expand the planning horizon and bring together a wide cross-section of stakeholders to identify and set priorities for different possible solutions.

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