CA Looks for Answers to Early Signs of Power Reliability Crunch
There was no shortage of hand-wringing and news media
announcements in the West in the wake of recent electricity price
spikes and multi-million-dollar estimated consequences from
California's relatively modest round of rolling brownouts around
the San Francisco Bay Area. The big question --- particular in
California --- is whether new solutions will come from regulators,
lawmakers or the market.
A report due Aug. 1 to California's Gov. Gray Davis on the
recent managed series of power outages and some of the generating
plant problems contributing to that will provide a clearer
indication, but that assumes there are no recurring power peaks
that strain the state's struggling electricity transmission grid.
A number of the state's merchant power plant developer/operators
hope the reliability crunch will prompt state energy policymakers
to accelerate the state's often cumbersome siting process for new
gas-fired generating plants. However, a check of the current status
of proposed plants, aside from five that have been approved (four
under construction), indicates more, not less, time for approvals
from the California Energy Commission.
A CEC project manager indicated last week that very few of the
active pending applications are likely to be approved anytime soon,
with the exception of a proposed new plant near Elk Hills
co-sponsored by Sempra Energy and Occidental Petroleum and the
remodeling of Duke Energy Services' Moss Landing plant along the
central California coast. And those plants may not gain the
go-ahead before the end of the summer at the earliest.
The delays of more than a year now for another Duke plant
remodeling --- at Morro Bay, about 80 miles south of Moss Landing
--- is an example of the predictment facing California. At the same
time that local and environmental concerns delay the start of the
state's formal siting application process, demands on the old
generating facility targeted for remodeling have doubled since 1996
when it went on the sales block.
"The existing plant's production levels have increased 194%
since 1996 due to the increasing demand for electricity in
California," according to Duke officials. "We forecast the year
2000 production levels to be the highest since 1988."
Richard Nemec, Los Angeles
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