The study conducted for the California Independent System Operator shows a regional power market could save California ratepayers $1.5 billion dollars annually. The study also shows it would allow the state to reach its 50 percent renewable energy goal by 2030. CAL ISO says an expansion would improve the grid’s ability to handle renewable energy sources.
“Our studies show that we may have to shut off up to 13,000 MW of excess power at a time by 2020," says Steve Berberich, CEO for CAL ISO. "In a regional market, we could sell that power and return those dollars to those who paid for the generation, the ratepayers.”
But a regional market opens the door to energy provider PacifiCorp, which owns dozens of coal-fired power plants. It faces expensive emission control retrofits for those plants. Some environmental groups worry that rather than shutting coal plants down, a regional market would give PacifiCorp incentive to continue to operate the plants.
“Our concern is that the market would tip the scale in favor of PacifiCorp deciding to spend that money in the 2020 timeframe instead of potentially retiring some or all of those units,” says Travis Ritchie, an attorney for the Sierra Club.The study found that a regional electricity market would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5 percent in the West by 2030.