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Calif. Approves Key Plan to Upgrade Power Grid

by Reuters
Reuters News Service - May 22, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO -- California energy regulators approved on Thursday a plan aimed at uncorking one of the biggest bottlenecks hampering the flow of megawatts on the state's electric transmission grid.

In a 3-2 vote, the California Public Utilities Commission backed a $323 million project to upgrade "Path 15", an 83-mile (133-km) corridor on the high-voltage system that carries power between Northern and Southern California.

Capacity restrictions on Path 15 was a major contributor to the blackouts that hit California during the 2000-2001 energy crisis, impeding the flow of surplus megawatts to parts of the state that needed them most.

The plan approved by the commission will add 1,500 megawatts of capacity to the line, bringing it up to 5,400 MW where it passes through Pacific Gas & Electric Co's service territory in the Central Valley.

One megawatt is enough to power about 1,000 homes.

The plan nearly derailed in March when a CPUC judge issued a draft order saying the utility could not proceed with the project because it could not show the upgrade would provide cost savings to customers equal to the cost of the project.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a subsidiary of San Francisco-based PG&E Corp., will work on Path 15 with the Western Area Power Administration, a federal agency, and Trans-Elect Inc., a private transmission company.

WAPA expects to pick a contractor for the project on Tuesday, said agency spokesman David Christy.

PG&E's role is to link two of its power substations to the new line, which is expected to be completed by December 2004, according to WAPA.

by Reuters Additional reporting by Leonard Anderson
San Francisco Weighs Harnessing Tides for Electricity
Environmental News Network - May 22, 2003

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