In Symbolic Vote, LA Says No to Plans for Western Electricity Co-Op

500 kV Three-phase electric power Transmission Lines at Grand Coulee Dam. (Photo by Varistor60 via Wikipedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A bill that would merge California into a regional energy market with other Western states won’t have the backing of Los Angeles officials as it makes its way through the Legislature.

In a 12-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing Assembly Bill 813 out of concern the bill will disrupt the city’s clean energy goals and potentially put its energy operations out of compliance with California’s “clean energy mandates and regulations,” according to the resolution.

AB 813 would lump the Golden State with up to 13 states in the Regional Transmission Organization, a wholesale electricity market stretching from Canada to Baja California.

The city’s resolution said the bill should be amended to ensure that “energy assets and clean energy objectives of nonparticipants of the multistate RTO” are not impacted.

In the city’s chief legislative analyst’s report, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said its energy transmission infrastructure – paid for by city residents – can already handle the relay of electricity to and from Western states and Canada.

The measure would also turn over decision-making power for California’s portion of that energy transmission chain from the nonprofit California Independent System Operator to the multistate organization.

Thirty-eight separate operators known as “balancing authorities” stretch across the interconnected western United States and make up approximately 20 percent of all the electric capacity in the United States and Canada, according to legislative analysis of the bill.

Tuesday’s resolution supports LA’s efforts to control their own energy infrastructure and transmission objectives.

The state’s energy operator established the Western Energy Imbalance Market in 2014 ostensibly to enhance grid reliability, save consumers money and improve the integration of renewable energy into the grid.

In Tuesday’s resolution, LA said it has taken steps to “voluntarily join the Energy Imbalance Market by 2020” which would allow it to sell excess energy or buy energy.

A “more prudent alternative” to the regional energy organization would be to expand the existing Energy Imbalance Market, which includes members from eight states, the city report said.

“Such a system would allow California to reap the benefits of more expansive trading without risking each utilities autonomy,” the report said.

A California Senate panel approved the bill on June 26, but not without voicing concern over turning the Legislature’s oversight of the state’s energy operator over to the feds.

California’s current system board would be suspended and any regulations adopted by the multistate body would be subject to approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Four out of five commission board members are appointed by President Donald Trump.

Gov. Brown and several prominent environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund also back the measure, claiming it will cut costs for consumers and bring more clean energy into the state.

Opposing environmental groups fear a regional grid could increase fossil fuel input, particularly from coal, into California’s energy grid.

Opponents of the bill – at least 65 of which are listed in the state analysis of the bill – say deregulation of the market threatens the state’s transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, opens it up to malicious speculation and would cost residents billions of dollars in fees.

The bill will be up for debate next in the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

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