PG&E gets bankruptcy court approval to upgrade Path 15

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Feb. 12 -- A US bankruptcy court authorized Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to spend up to $75 million to help alleviate transmission constraints on so-called Path 15.

The San Francisco-based utility, operating under protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code since April 2001, received court approval Tuesday to begin two transmission projects.

The upgrade of Path 15, a section of the electric transmission grid near Los Banos, Calif., is currently being conducted by a consortium led by the Western Area Power Administration. Last October, Sec. of Energy Spencer Abraham announced a memorandum of understanding among various public and private parties governing the financing and co-ownership of the Path 15 system additions with participants, including PG&E.

The entire project will cost about $300 million and be financed by the Transmission Agency of Northern California, Kinder Morgan Power Co., Williams Energy Marketing & Trading Co., and PG&E. The public power agency will have a 45% stake; the private companies, 45%; and the Western Area Power Administration, 10%.

Path 15 is a set of electrical transmission lines in the center of California, connecting the southern part of the state with northern California. The path is seriously constrained and contributed to a number of the blackouts that California suffered during 2000 and early 2001. Sufficient power from southern California could not be transported to satisfy the demand in the northern part of the state without overloading Path 15.

Pacific Gas& Electric Co.'s primary role in the project is to interconnect the transmission lines being built with the utility's existing substations, the company said.

The court also authorized PG&E to spend up to $136.9 million to upgrade the transmission in the Tri-Valley region. Tri-Valley, just east of San Francisco, has reached 98.6% of the transmission system capacity and future electricity demand is forecast to exceed the system's capacity.

The cities that will be served by the upgrade include Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon and unincorporated areas of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

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