Senator Padilla Introduces Bill Streamlining Transmission Project Approval Process
SACRAMENTO – Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) introduced Senate Bill 619 yesterday, expanding the California Energy Commission’s authority to certify transmission projects and prioritizing those projects for the Commission.
“California’s grid is in dire need of modernization. Dedicated efforts to develop new transmission lines are a critical part of our clean energy future,” said Senator Padilla. “As our need for energy grows and as we work to meet our climate goals, we need to take action now to expand California’s transmission capacity. Tomorrow is too late.”
California has enacted some of the world’s most aggressive climate goals. Governor Newsom has announced that internal combustion engines will no longer be sold in California after 2035. In 2018, the State adopted SB 100, committing to power the state with 100% clean energy by 2045. Los Angeles, the state’s largest city, went even further and announced its plans to go 100% clean energy by 2035.
California’s bold green energy goals put it at the forefront of the nation’s climate efforts, however, meeting those goals will require a far larger and more resilient electrical grid. New high-voltage cables, modernized existing cable networks, and new infrastructure connecting a grid with a far larger capacity to carry clean electrons to power our homes and economy are all necessary to meet the state’s ambitious climate goals.
Despite the overwhelming need to expand our electrical grid, the California Public Utilities Commission has not authorized a new transmission project in over a decade. The current process requires multiple agencies, duplicative analyses, and permitting processes that take years to complete and create unnecessary cost overruns and substantial delays.
California needs over $30 billion in new transmission investments in the next two decades to meet our existing targets, according to an analysis produced by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) last year. While CAISO had previously estimated the need for an additional 1,000 megawatts of new clean energy every year for the next decade, their updated analysis estimates California will require 4,000 megawatts of new capacity every year. Meeting this unprecedented demand will require California to simultaneously accelerate planning, siting, permitting, and construction of a modern electrical grid, while carefully managing its costs.
Current transmission projects are delayed by almost 5 years and have run up tens of millions of dollars in extra costs. Absent substantial changes to the state’s current planning and permitting processes, California will not meet its visionary climate goals and the state’s fragile energy grid will experience unprecedented strain.
“Greater transparency around these projects is necessary to better manage costs and protect ratepayers,” Senator Padilla said. “The federal government has made unprecedented investments in grid modernization and we need to make certain we leverage every available federal dollar. But, if we wait another decade, that money and help will be long gone.”
SB 619 would expand upon last year’s AB 205 authorizing the California Energy Commission (CEC) to certify transmission projects that cost over $250 million and directs the CEC to prioritize such projects. The measure is intended to be the starting point for a much larger and overdue conversation within the Legislature on how to meet our climate goals, deliver reliable power to homes and businesses, manage costs and add transparency to modernizing California’s electrical grid.
“Clean Power Campaign strongly agrees with Senator Padilla that rapidly building out new transmission capacity is essential for California to meet its climate and clean energy goals, said V. John White, Legislative Director for Clean Power Campaign. “We look forward to working with Senator Padilla and other stakeholders on this important legislation to streamline approvals and speed up construction of new transmission lines.”
Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: https://sd18.senate.ca.gov/