by Jeff St. John
November 26, 2019

Over the past month, the California Public Utilities Commission’s effort to reform its Resource Adequacy program has hit a major snag, one centered on longstanding conflicts about how to value out-of-state imports as part of the state’s future grid capacity mix.

California has faced numerous challenges in its year-long effort to change the RA program, which sets the rules for how investor-owned utilities, community-choice aggregators and other load-serving entities contract for future generation or load-reduction capacity. These challenges include how to measure the value of all kinds of future grid resources, from economically struggling natural-gas-fired power plants that have been closing across the state, to utility-scale solar-battery projects that are contracted for but have yet to be built.

One of the most contentious aspects of the RA debate has been over the value of imports from outside the boundaries of California grid operator CAISO. These can range from Pacific Northwest hydropower connected via the Pacific DC Intertie to a variety of fossil-fueled or renewable-powered resources from across the Western U.S.

In simple terms, the argument over imports breaks down to what rules California should use to determine whether the imports can be relied on in future years when the grid needs them the most.