CPUC Judge Weissman questions SDG&E's Linda Brown
Date of Filing/Decision
The following is an excerpt from CPUC ALJ Steven Weissman's questioning of SDG&E's Linda Brown on July 12, 2007 at the Sunrise Hearings. View a transcript of the entire questioning here.
Weissman: I understand that. What I am trying to really understand now, though, is not so much what kind of case can SDG&E bring in before the Commission to demonstrate that it needs the Sunrise line. I'm much more interested at this point in understanding the planning process within the company that leads you to the conclusion that you want to build Sunrise.
And I'm understanding -- I think I'm understanding correctly that your responsibilities have to do with planning transmission. So -- so that if there was an assessment made at any point about the full range of options including generation, targeted energy efficiency, more in-basin generation, as opposed to a transmission line, that your shop is not the place where that discussion would take place?
Brown: No, but I think that my input to that process is important. I mean I -- you know, my boss and -- who reports to Jim Avery, we don't operate in a vacuum. I mean I think we -- you know. And we also work with our grid operations department who is dealing with the system every day. So, you know, Linda, if you were going to build the next transmission line, what would it do? Where do you think it would go? At the same time, if you were going to connect in renewables, what would it do? Would an in-basin generator meet that? I mean we've had those types of discussions, more -- not at my staff level, but more at Dave and Jim's staff level. I mean we've looked at the picture.
Weissman: All right. So let's be a little bit more specific. When did conversations of that type take place?
Brown: I mean they're always taking place. When we first built the -- or identified the Otay Mesa power project, we had originally, like I think I had said, put it into Miguel. As the RMR costs started to escalate in the last couple of years and we started to look at what
happened, we developed transmission, the Otay Mesa power loop that just went into service, that greatly reduced the RMR. We came up with a transmission plan to help relieve that congestion. It's also my opinion that putting large or more combined cycles in the system are going to require more transmission upgrades. I mean, you know, you can look at some and you can put a peaker one or two places and maybe get lucky and not hardly have to do anything, but, generally speaking, our system is very much transmission constrainted. So no matter if it's in-basin generation or it's a new transmission line, we're looking at new transmission in my opinion.
Weissman: Well, doesn't a well-located new generating plant, locally located generating plant, create new opportunities on the transmission line to serve that area?
Brown: Yeah, if we built new transmission lines with a new local power plant --
Weissman: No. My question has to do with the existing
transmission line. If you are experiencing congestion,
doesn't one way to respond to that congestion involve
building local generation?
Brown: Well, usually, it depends. It would have to be very local and not large generation. It all depends on location and what the constraints is. Generally, you are going to relieve congestion by relieving the transmission constraint. If you put the generation in the right spot, it's going to relieve the transmission line, but you would really need both.
Weissman: Well, was there a point when somebody came to
you and said, Linda Brown, make us a transmission project, put together a project for us? Was there a point where that direction came?
Weissman: And it came from whom?
Brown: At that time, I was working -- trying to think -- it was under Dave Geier's organization.
Weissman: But you don't remember who would have given
you that --
Brown: You know, when I first went back into transmission planning, my direct boss was Caroline Winn, who reported to Dave. So the direct -- you know, nobody -- it doesn't -- like, all of sudden, one day somebody would walk into your office and say, okay, develop the plan of service. I mean you are kind of doing it all at the same time and putting the plan together. But my directions at the time we developed this would have come from Caroline Winn.
Weissman: Part of what I'm trying to understand also is who is accountable for the decision to pursue this project. Who handles that?
Brown: Well, I think that -- I mean in my opinion, it was -- it's Jim Avery, our policy witness. And I mean --
Weissman: My impression was when I asked Mr. Avery about that, he pointed to you.
Brown: Well, for developing the transmission plan of service, that's my group. But I mean as a company, I'm not making the policy decision on if it's generation or transmission.
Weissman: Are you offering a judgment on that?
Brown: I can absolutely offer a judgment.
Weissman: But is that part of what you do?
Brown: I mean I think -- I think that I'm very well respected by my bosses in that they would take my input when they make their final decision.
Weissman: So you can envision yourself saying transmission is not the answer here. It should be building a new power plant?
Brown: I mean if I really believed that were the right answer, I would not be afraid to say that.
Weissman: Has that ever happened?
Brown: I'm trying to think if that's ever happened. I've only been back a few years, so -- I mean we just got Palomar, and we're getting Otay, so --
Weissman: Okay. So you can't think of anything right now?
Weissman: Thanks for going through that with me.
Brown: You're welcome.