Yet others don’t see it as a set-in-stone pact, rather something with an offramp if it doesn’t work out.
The memorandum would commit both the Imperial and San Diego energy utilities to jointly pursue a partial participating transmission ownership arrangement in the area surrounding the Imperial Valley Substation west of El Centro. The agreement, which is not a binding one, would deal with the solar projects being proposed in the area that would connect directly to the substation, thus bypassing the IID system.
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Some of those projects already have signed power purchase agreements with SDG&E, but the district hasn’t been involved in the negotiations, said William Kissinger, outside counsel with Bingham McCutchen out of San Francisco. The goal of the agreement is to establish a framework and understanding that would let the IID be the lead for interconnection and management of projects in development for as long as IID remains in the arrangement.
A small fraction of the facility at the substation would be under the California Independent System Operator control, but the whole of the IID’s system would not, he said.
A final partial participating transmission ownership arrangement would have to be approved by the CalISO and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which could take about a year, Kissinger said.
Some, like former Director Mike Abatti and Carolyn Allen, asked the board to take more time to really consider the agreement.
The Imperial Valley has a proud history of being independent, and this is a huge step forward that could have a negative effect on the area, Allen said.
“I just feel like the IID and the Valley won’t come out on top with an agreement with SDG&E,” she said.
Others saw it as a way to end isolation.
It’s time to look at SDG&E as a partner and see how the district and San Diego can work together, said Timothy Kelley, president and CEO of Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. Pushing forward an agreement like this would show those in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., that the IID is interested in renewable energy.
While directors like Stella Mendoza said they had concerns when dealing with CalISO and SDG&E, Kelley and the team of lawyers have been directed to safeguard the balancing authority.
Mendoza said she will try and keep an open mind, but if she sees something that could harm this area’s balancing authority, she will be the first to call and cancel the memorandum of understanding.
Mendoza, President John Pierre Menvielle and Director Anthony Sanchez all approved the memorandum.
Sanchez voted for the agreement, saying that what was approved Tuesday is not a binding contract. The district should continue to try and be partners with other organizations because if this area is trying to be a renewable energy producer, it’s going to need utility companies to buy that power.
Others saw it differently.
While Hanks said he was disappointed that this hadn’t come to the board sooner, the board has taken an oath to protect the area’s balancing authority and water rights. This agreement is trying to set a demarcation line, and it will become a real issue moving forward.
There are a lot of unknowns in this agreement, like what is happening to the water for the renewable energy projects and whether state and federal officials will approve of the arrangement, he said.
“We’re being asked to make a decision on information I don’t have,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know, if I don’t have the information, my vote’s no.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.