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California’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative as a model for state renewable resource development and transmission planning

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Given the lack of US federal leadership in climate change regulation, states have taken the lead in the implementation of aggressive policies to promote economic development, decrease dependence on foreign energy imports, and achieve broad environmental goals through increased reliance on renewable energy sources. The renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) has become the most common tool used by states to achieve their particular policy goals; however, numerous barriers stand in the way of electricity providers seeking compliance with the RPS mandate. The California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) was a statewide attempt to overcome problems related to transmission planning and costs, private and public land-use issues, and environmental impacts. By seeking the involvement of broad stakeholder groups in the identification and evaluation of potential renewable energy zones, RETI created a roadmap for future renewable energy development in California that is both economically and environmentally sound. Through a collaborative transmission planning process, RETI provides key insights into the challenges faced by states attempting to comply with their RPS mandates, including those relating to concerns about participant selection, locating transmission, permitting, and the timing of both the planning and implementation stages of the initiative. In this paper, I evaluate RETI’s success in achieving its stated goals while also identifying areas of concern not addressed by the initiative. The results of this analysis provide guidance for states implementing their own RPS programs.


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