Plan To Regionalize Western Power Grid Stalls Post-Trump

California energy regulators say the state could benefit from sharing more electricity with its neighbors during heat waves such as this week’s, but a proposal to do so has stalled after the election of President Trump.

While an enormous electric grid carries power throughout the western United States, it’s divided into 38 fiefdoms, where regional operators figure out their own power needs. That can leave solar energy unused in one state while another fires up reserve gas plants to meet demand.

The Brown administration last year looked to create a centralized authority that could plan power use across the west. Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, is a major proponent of “regionalization.”

“We will reduce costs for everybody. We will reduce pollution. We will improve system reliability, and these are all reasons to do this,” says Cavanagh.

Last August, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote to leadership in the Legislature that he would look to pass a proposal earlier this year.

“I have directed my staff, the Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board to continue working with the Legislature,” Brown wrote. “The goal is to develop a strong proposal that the Legislature can consider in January.”

That still hasn’t happened, although the governor has maintained he still supports regionalization.

Some environmental groups worry about partnering with coal-burning states, but a larger concern is that a major change in grid operation would create an opportunity for federal regulators appointed by President Trump to influence California’s renewable energy policies.

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