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by Jeff St. John
September 07, 2018

For the past two years, Gov. Jerry Brown, the state’s big utilities, and environmental and clean energy groups, have fought a legislative battle to expand state grid operator CAISO’s reach to include most of the Western United States.

For the past two years, they’ve failed.

AB 813, a bill that would have set the stage for grid expansion, has died in committee in the past two legislative sessions. Despite its heavyweight support, the bill hasn’t been able to overcome arguments from opponents who say it will destroy California’s ability to determine its own grid policies by shifting the center of power from the state to federal level — a claim given political heft by the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to use federal energy policy to prop up coal power — and undermine, not support, its clean energy goals.

But AB 813 opponents like the Sierra Club, the Clean Coalition, and labor and utility ratepayer groups have insisted all along that they aren’t against the broader goals of the bill. They agree that a more integrated Western grid, as compared to the current balkanized system, should lead to more efficiency in how the region invests in transmission and generation, as well as a more geographically diverse set of resources to balance a wind- and solar-powered grid at the lowest possible cost.

They just think there’s a better way to do it: expanding the Energy Imbalance Market.