California’s 2020 goal of generating a third of its power from renewables will be more complicated than just building enough solar power plants, utility-scale wind projects, and geothermal facilities.
Renewable energy, much of it variable, must be delivered to and integrated in the state’s transmission system. Responsibility for 80 percent of the state’s power falls to the California Independent System Operator Corporation (the ISO). The ISO has to meet the goals set by the state’s political leaders, its energy commission, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) while adhering to regulation by federal and regional authorities that focus on grid reliability.
Decision-makers at the ISO are preparing for the big changes necessary to achieve the 33 percent renewables goal without forgetting their experience in the 2000 and 2001 energy crisis, when multiple outages cost the state $40 billion to $45 billion and the sitting governor was recalled.