Federal and State Energy Policy

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Historical Overview

Transmission planning has long been a controversial issue. Congress tried to resolve it through the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (and updated in 2005) which ordered transmission owners to work through regional transmission groups or organizations (RTGs or RTOs) to accommodate all requests for access to the grid. The idea was that the system would be like the nation's highways and railroads, "common carriers" that must offer services to all customers, even if they have to build new facilities to do it.

RTGs and RTOs were formed, SWRTA, WRTA and other acronyms, but none got very far because they could never resolve the issue of "who pays" for improvements in the system. The idea was to come up with ways to determine who benefits from any transmission improvement, and how they will pay for that benefit. The first groups failed and others took their place, but also failed. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has threatened to take the process over if owners don't get their act together, but progress is still very slow.

In California, the Independent System Operator (ISO) oversees the transmission planning process for the regulated utilities, PG&E, SoCal Edison and SDG&E. Municipal utilities can request service in that process, but generally do not participate when building their own lines. Click for in-depth account...

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