CA ISO, Utilities Take Action on Shortages
Acknowledging that a combination of unexpected generator outages
and sustained hot weather could create the threat of power outages
this summer, the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO)
launched a new alert system for gaining enough voluntary
conservation by businesses and mass consumers to ride out the
peak-demand periods. Calling it "Power Watch 2000," Cal-ISO
President/CEO Terry Winter said he anticipates that both short- and
long-term the state can use market-based programs to address
During an emergency drill and press briefing at the Cal-ISO
northern California headquarters, Winter said the state's
nonprofit, state-chartered electric grid operator is assuming
natural gas supplies will be adequate to take care of any peak
demands. The major part of the 38,000 MW of peaking power generated
in-state is gas-fired, while another 8,000 to 10,000 MW are
imported, coming mostly from hydro, coal and nuclear sources.
"Natural gas availability in the summer has not been a problem
in California and we don't anticipate any problem, so it has not
been factored into our calculations," Winter said.
The Cal-ISO basically is sticking with its same forecasts for
weather and generation loads. Winter said he hopes the planning and
preparation the state does for the summer peaks turns out to be a
"nonevent" much like its work on potential Y2K problems, noting
that the same widespread "team approach" is being applied.
According to current Cal-ISO calculations, if a shortfall does
arise, it could be in the magnitude of 1,000 MW. In response, the
state's voluntary pilot auction program already turned up 500 MW
that large users would voluntarily curtail, and Winter said they
would try to gain the other 500 MW from additional voluntary
conservation. In addition, state investor-owned electric utilities
have been authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission
to offer to pay large customers to curtail several hundred
megawatts if needed.
This summer and longer term, Winter said the Cal-ISO hopes the
market-based solutions can do the job. He said the market has to be
allowed "to send the right price signals so adequate new generating
capacity is built," and there needs to be incentives for loads to
be curtailed voluntarily. At this point, Winter thinks the 12,000
MW of new generation that have been proposed in California are
adequate, although all of that capacity is unlikely to get built.
Winter attributes the threat of shortfalls to general economic
and population growth throughout the western U.S. and not to
deregulation or an inability of California to get sufficient new
generation on line. He cited growth in Nevada over the past 10
years of 51% in the overall electrical demand, and in the Pacific
Northwest, 31% over the same period. That affects how much
potential power California can import, he said.
Richard Nemec, Los Angeles
©Copyright 2000 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights
reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or
redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of
Intelligence Press, Inc.