The Desert Review
IMPERIAL VALLEY — Citizens Energy, in partnership with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), announced a $40 million transmission line upgrade that will bring significant savings for California ratepayers in addition to expanded energy assistance funding for low-income families in the Imperial Valley, according to a press release.
The upgrade of IID’s current S-Line will transform the existing 18-mile, 230 kV wooden pole, single-circuit line into a state-of-the-art steel tower transmission line and provide upward of $151 million in savings for ratepayers living within the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) balancing area.
Citizens Energy will invest $40 million in the project and has committed to channeling half of its annual profits from the investment into energy assistance programs to benefit IID’s low-income ratepayers. Over the course of the project’s 40-year lifetime, Citizens Energy estimates it will devote $18 million of its profits to addressing the needs of Imperial Valley’s most vulnerable families.
According to the release, the project will also help relieve transmission bottlenecks, carry renewable energy to market from the Imperial Valley’s vast solar, wind and geothermal resources, and save ratepayers money by allowing utilities to more efficiently purchase and transmit low-cost energy.
Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II, a former US congressman who founded the company in 1979, said recent climate-related disasters underline the importance of increasing the grid’s capacity to send green energy to homes and businesses.
“The devastation of wildfires, storms, and floods caused by our dependence on fossil fuels has made it clear we need to do everything possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This project is another step forward in the long climb towards a balanced atmosphere,” said Kennedy. “The IID board of directors deserves congratulations for taking yet another step to unlock the green energy of the Imperial Valley while finding ways to relieve the burden of high energy costs on the poor.”
This S-Line Upgrade project with IID is the latest addition to Citizens Energy’s transmission portfolio. The S-Line is the company’s third transmission project in the CAISO territory, having invested $100 million in the $1.8 billion Sunrise PowerLink in 2012, and $30 million in the $230 million Sycamore-Penasquitos project — both of which were innovative partnerships with San Diego Gas and Electric.
The Boston-based non-profit has used profits from each of its other transmission projects to fund charitable energy initiatives, including a 30-megawatt low-income community solar farm in Imperial Valley, California — the largest project of its kind in the Country — benefitting IID’s 12,000 low-income ratepayers through their eGreen solar program, as stated in the release.
The Imperial Valley is slated to be home to numerous solar farms as California pursues its goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. The expansive, sunbaked landscape is home to both the green energy infrastructure of the future and the third highest poverty rate in the State. One in four people in Imperial County live in poverty in a climate where temperatures can rise over 115 degrees Fahrenheit, posing health risks to young and old alike. Many families cannot afford to run air-conditioning to avert those risks. Infrastructure projects that give back to the local community are a critical way of ensuring access to energy.
“We applaud the vision and creativity of IID and the CAISO in finding solutions to complex energy transmission issues, increasing access to renewable energy, and building energy infrastructure while simultaneously supporting companies like Citizens that provide much needed energy assistance to low-income families,” said Pete Smith, CEO of Citizens Energy. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with both companies again.”