Southern California Edison, the largest electric utility in California, will hold a series of open houses next week to explain a power line project that has drawn heavy static from Arizona regulators and environmentalists.
The Devers-Palo Verde 2 project is a 225-mile high-voltage line running from the Palo Verde hub west of Phoenix to the Devers substation near Palm Springs, Calif. Running parallel to an existing line, it is designed to transport electricity produced at natural-gas generating plants in Arizona to Southern California.
Arizona critics of the $680 million project say it would result in greater air pollution and water consumption in the Grand Canyon State to benefit consumers in California. Also, the line would cross a wildlife refuge in western Arizona.
The Arizona Corporation Commission rejected the 97-mile Arizona portion of the project in June 2007. But the California utility is attempting to revive the line under a law that allows federal regulators to override decisions of state regulators if a power line is located in a designated national-interest corridor.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave such a designation to a wide swath of western Arizona and Southern California earlier this year.
The California utility has filed preliminary papers with the federal agency in preparation for a formal application in early 2009. But it would prefer to resolve the case with the Arizona commission, said project manager Marco Ahumada.
He said SCE could file a revised application with the ACC early next year.
To make the project more palatable to Arizonans, he said SCE might build a new switch yard in the Harquahala Valley, which would increase the reliability of the Arizona grid and allow the Central Arizona Project to tap into the new line to run pumps that transport Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.
Also, the line could move electricity generated at future solar power plants in western Arizona into the Phoenix market, Ahumada said.
"One of the beauties of this project is the line cuts though a solar-intense area," he said.
Arizona commissioners have said it would take a lot of convincing for them to reverse their decision of last year.
"We will look at any proposal they would make, but the bar is high," said Commissioner Kris Mayes.