It lasted only a few hours, but the first power alert for the year from California’s electric transmission grid operator, CAISO, last Monday raised the pitch of discussion about the state’s summer power reserve adequacy, but most observers agreed the Stage One alert was not a harbinger of any undue problems.

A Boston, MA-based consulting firm issued a pronouncement to that effect, and officials in California treated it as an isolated blip.

The alert, which puts large users and utilities on guard but doesn’t prompt any load shedding, was issued in the early afternoon March 29 and rescinded before 8 p.m. the same day.

“Monday’s Stage One Electric Emergency in California was not an omen for this summer,” said an announcement from Energy Security Analysis, Inc. (ESAI), which analyzed the grid operator’s move. “Our analysis shows that California will have ample supply to meet electricity demand this summer. The emergency was a one-time occurrence during which several unusual factors converged that wil1 not be the norm this summer.”

However, as others — inside and outside of the state — also have said, ESAI has concerns beyond this year, perhaps as early as the summer of 2006.

“We do have concerns beyond the summer of 2004 related to the need for building more generation in the state, but things look good for this summer,” said Stephen Conant, ESAI’s senior market analyst. In its monthly analysis of California’s electricity market, ESAI noted that the state through the California Public Utilities Commission is doing a good job of planning for at least an 18% reserve margin, but that “little progress” is being made in developing state policies that will assure the needed new generation will get built.

Last Monday’s situation, however, was not an indication of any immediate problems, rather it was an unexpected combination of unseasonably hot weather and unforeseen power plant outages, all concentrated in the southern half of the state that forced CAISO to declare the Stage One alert because reserves hovered a little below 7%.

This was the grid operator’s first alert of the year, and the situation never got close to a Stage 2, in which large power users who pay a cheaper interruptible rate are asked to curtail their loads.

©Copyright 2004 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.