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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

California governor pushes plan for Western power grid

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Independent System Operator's stakeholder symposium on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
By Juliet Williams Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that he remains committed to expanding California’s power grid to include other Western states, despite a delay announced this summer when it appeared the state Legislature was unprepared to grant the broader approval needed to advance the project this year.

“The efficiency of a wider grid is unmistakable. And the imperative is greater efficiency, greater elegance and intelligence in the way we use and produce electricity, the way we market it and the way it goes around the system,” Brown said at a meeting hosted by the California Independent System Operator in Sacramento.

The ISO manages the flow of electricity across long-distance power lines that make up 80 percent of California’s power grid and a small part of Nevada’s grid, overseeing transmission lines stretching for tens of thousands of miles. It also operates a competitive wholesale power market.

California officials have been working with leaders in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming to establish a broader power grid. But Brown told the governors of those states in an August letter that approval will not come this year and he hopes to release a new proposal by January.

The Democratic governor, a staunch environmentalist who has championed renewable energy and stringent emission limits, acknowledged Wednesday that there are differences in philosophy between the states, including some states’ reliance on energy developed from coal.

He joked that those attending Wednesday’s meeting had a simple task in convincing entrenched interests to set aside differences over environmental policy and politics.

“Make sure that those who love coal and those who love the sun can sit down and work in a totally seamless web of interconnection, interaction and happiness for all,” the governor said. “And if there’s anything to do with sharing power across state lines, forget it. We don’t spend our lives trying to attain this power to share it with somebody else.”

Getting a regional grid approved through the political processes of several states may be difficult but worth doing, Brown said.

“The times are changing, the technologies are forcing us to re-examine how things work,” he said.