It is hard to imagine in California’s current summer of extremeelectricity discontent, but Southern California Gas, the nation’slargest natural gas distributor, envisions electric generationloads dropping by up to 38% over the next 20 years, according toits latest submission to the annual California Gas Report.

In a nutshell, SoCal’s long-range crystal ball right nowpredicts increased throughput in the smaller customer core marketsand decreases among some of the largest, non-core customers(enhanced oil recovery, steaming, electric generation and wholesalecustomers). “Many uncertainties” influence the electric generationmarket, according to SoCalGas officials, such as efficiencies andwhere the new power plants in the state will be built. The majorityof new merchant plants now under construction are outside SoCalGas’service territory or in contested areas, such as the 600 MW HighDesert Plant proposal 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles to be builton a former U.S. Air Force base. At this point, SoCalGas’ businessplans assume many of these new plants will be built outside of itsterritory.

“Overall, SoCalGas’ throughput should decline by 6% between nowand 2020,” the gas utility told its employees earlier this month ina periodic report on company utility operations.

The largest commercial/industrial loads should remain constantat about 164 Bcf annually for SoCalGas, but the other parts of thenon-core markets will decline. Last year, SoCalGas’ deliveries topower generators totaled about 30% of its throughput at 316 Bcf;that is predicted to drop under 200 Bcf annually in 2020 when thegas utility’s overall throughput will dip under 1 Tcf to about 960Bcf.

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