File photo

File photo

EL CENTRO – The Imperial Irrigation District energy division is faced with a need to major overhaul its aging electrical infrastructure and from developers’ pressure for new substations to feed the burgeoning housing market within IID’s service territory. With this in mind, the board listened to IID Energy Manager Jaime Asbury outline estimated costs and possible funding options at the regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15.

To facilitate additional development, significant infrastructure upgrades will be necessary over the next five years. Additionally, with California demanding a clean fleet and zero emission vehicles, widespread charging stations will need to be built and powered.

“Demand for growth has a required capital investment in Imperial and Coachella Valley of between $400-500 million,” Asbury said, “most of which is attributed to new substation infrastructure.”

For Coachella Valley, 14 new substations are required while three are needed in the Imperial Valley. Besides new infrastructure, the existing facilities need upgrades that could add $300 million to the $500 million. The work is expected to begin in April of 2023 and finish in 2029.

The IID was presented with options to facilitate development by revising regulations, cost sharing arrangements, and cost in aid of construction arrangements.

The board was given three options of maintaining the current status to its service territory, an infrastructure surcharge on electric bills with a voluntary opt out, or a mandatory infrastructure charge to be paid by all customers.

Eric Reyes, member of the IID’s Energy Consumers Advisory Committee, said the committee rejected the voluntary opt out option.

“Poor people will be stuck with the addition on their bills, but richer businesses will opt out for their bottom line. It puts the cost on the backs on poor working people,” Reyes said.

New infrastructure will require developers to fund project requirements apart from the substation, including funding infrastructure necessary to reach the substation site and to contribute a pro rata capacity charge based upon the amount of use the development would get from the new substation facilities, Asbury told the board. Part of IID’s regulations say growth must pay for growth, or developers who need upgraded and new electrical infrastructure must pay part of IID’s cost.

Before a new substation would be added, the developer must demonstrate control of the proposed site, have all the permitting and environmental tests run, be credit worthy and have site plans, contractors, and other milestones completed, according to Asbury.

La Quinta City Manager Jon McMillon and Indio Mayor Waymond Fermon both spoke during public comments about the need in their areas for more infrastructure for growth.

“You are doing the ratepayers a disservice not investing in infrastructure. Ratepayers are the ones paying for growth,” Indio Mayor Fermon said. “We are shovel ready for four transformers, plus upgrades to keep our citizens safe.”

“Four substations need upgrades,” McMillon said about La Quinta. "Plus we need more to be built. The ones we have are working above their designed capacity. The demand for energy is up. There are more people living here in the summer than ever before. If the IID charges a developer $20 million to have a substation built, trust me, it won’t get built.”

IID Board President Jim Hanks said, “Something has to be done and done soon. Who will pay? Developers, affordability of ratepayers, bonds, which option? We don’t know yet. Imperial needs updating too, just like Coachella.”

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