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PG&E gets OK for Path 15 expansion
Updated: Feb. 7, 2001 - 4:06 p.m.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. won approval Wednesday for a plan to ease a major electricity transmission bottleneck that was partially to blame for the rolling blackouts that hit Northern California last month.
An official for the Folsom-based California Independent System Operator approved an expansion of the so-called Path 15 lines that are used to transfer extra power from south to north.
The expansion could cost $200 million to $300 million and take up to five years.
The three major conduits moving power between north and south narrow to just two 500,000-volt lines at Path 15, 80 miles of PG&E power lines stretching from south of Los Banos to Harris Ranch.
In the past weeks, when Northern California has been strapped for energy, plants in the south that had power available couldn't move it up the bottlenecked lines. That has made the north even more dependent on hydroelectricity from the Pacific Northwest, where a lack of precipitation has reservoirs falling fast.
PG&E owns Path 15 but put off expansion for years, saying the system's importance would fade as new northern plants come online.
But on Friday, the utility told the ISO that it would expand to ease the bottleneck, said Armando Perez, ISO director of grid planning.
Perez's approval lets PG&E start the permitting process.
The cash-strapped utility would finance the plan by raising prices for wholesalers, who use Path 15, said Jeff Butler, a PG&E vice president.
-- Associated Press, Bee Staff Report
-- Swissrose (email@example.com), February 08, 2001