Distributed Solar Just Saved Californians $145 Million in Transmission Upgrades
In California, 2017 is off to a sunny start. The Fresno Bee reported in late December that distributed solar is either deferring or canceling the need for a previously planned high-voltage transmission line in the Golden State’s Central Valley. The state’s grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), is rethinking the need for the transmission line, which would cost between $115 million and $145 million to build.
The California Energy Commission forecasts the installed capacity of distributed generation solar projects in the Fresno area growing from nearly 60 megawatts in 2016 to almost 600 megawatts in 2026. “Due to currently forecasted increases in the development of distributed energy resources and a later peak energy demand in the greater Fresno area” to between 4 and 7 p.m. daily, “the reliability need for the project will be pushed out,” a CAISO spokesman said in the article. The CAISO will determine whether to cancel the project or put it on hold in the next few months.
This follows a similar decision earlier last year in which distributed solar and energy efficiency saved utility customers another $192 million in avoided sub-transmission projects, also in PG&E territory. And California’s not alone: last week, the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel filed testimony stating that a $75 million, 10-mile transmission line is no longer necessary. The Counsel’s expert argued that distributed generation and other technical approaches were ignored, and cited the “changing conditions in the electric sector”.
Policymakers should take note. This is evidence of yet another major benefit of distributed solar: avoiding the need for high-voltage transmission lines means savings for all ratepayers.