A plan to ease a notorious electricity bottleneck between Southern and Northern California that contributed to rolling blackouts during 2001 moved forward Thursday over the objections of two members of the California Public Utilities Commission.
The PUC, in a 3-2 vote, cleared the way for PG&E Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to participate in a federal plan expanding Path 15, an 85-mile stretch of high-voltage electricity transmission lines near Los Banos in the Central Valley. Capacity limitations along the Path 15 transmission corridor have created a chronic electron traffic jam, restricting the flow of electricity from Southern California to Northern California.
The federal project to add a 500-kilovolt line to Path 15, was announced near the end of the energy crisis in 2001, and included PG&E, the Western Area Power Administration, a federal agency, and Trans-Elect Inc. of Reston, Va., a closely held company that invests in transmission systems. PG&E then sought to withdraw a separate state-run expansion proposal that the PUC was overseeing.
At a meeting Thursday in San Francisco, the PUC ceded control of the $300-million project, which will add 1,500 megawatts of transmission capacity, to federal authorities, thus ending the state's version of the expansion. The measure was supported by PUC President Michael Peevey and commissioners Jeff Brown and Susan Kennedy.
Commissioners Loretta Lynch and Carl Wood voted against the proposal, arguing that the federal version is too costly and that California regulators should retain authority over transmission lines within the state that are paid for by California ratepayers.