Why California’s Power Lines Take So Long to Build

The years-long permitting process for new transmission lines is slowing the state’s shift to clean energy.

1 minute read

January 2, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Power transmission lines surrounded by orange California poppies and silhouette of mountains in background

Luc Mena / Power lines

In an article in Governing, Ari Plachta argues that the complex permitting process for building new power lines in California is holding back the state’s clean energy sector. 

Plachta explains the growing need for electricity in California, where “climate change is driving an increased demand for electricity, due to extreme weather and electrification of homes and cars” and peak demand is expected to double by 2040. “Without enough power lines, California will fall short of its goal to supply 100 percent clean energy by 2045.”

Several agencies estimate that the state’s grid will need to roughly triple its transmission capacity by 2050, but adding capacity is increasingly costly and time-consuming. “[I]n 2022, a long-distance transmission line faces a six-to-ten-year journey through California’s regulatory system.” Meanwhile, transmission lines can cost millions of dollars per mile, “making cost a source of contention between renewable energy developers and utilities.”

Projects are also sometimes delayed by community opposition, Plachta adds. “Whether it’s from suburban homeowners concerned about property values or indigenous tribes protecting cultural resources, advocates hope to find a public that’s more receptive to clean energy infrastructure development.” But industry experts say major reforms are needed to meet the state’s clean energy goals and the growing demand for electricity.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022 in Governing

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