California: Soaring heat could leave us in the darkgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
(Published: Thursday, May 11, 2000)
POWER STRUGGLE: Soaring heat could leave us in the dark By TIM MORAN BEE STAFF WRITER
A hot summer could bring power shortages to California, and in the worst case power blackouts, state power regulators warned Wednesday.
The California Independent System Operator, the organization that operates the state's electric transmission lines, said electric customers may be asked to curtail power use this summer if demand exceeds supply.
The problem, said ISO Chief Executive Officer Terry Winter, is that the economy in California and other western states is booming. That means electric use is rising faster than anticipated, and California hasn't added generating plants to keep pace.
There are several new power plants proposed or under construction, but they won't be operational for a year or two, Winter said.
The situation will become a problem only with an extremely hot summer, Winter said. "If it is a normal summer, we clearly have the resources to meet the need," he said.
But if a major generating facility goes off line unexpectedly or very hot weather causes demand to skyrocket, there could be a problem, Winter said.
"We are not anticipating any forced reduction or anyone not able to meet their (power) demand," he said.
Industries and consumers, however, may be asked to voluntarily curtail energy use on hot afternoons, Winter said.
Under the worst-case scenario, Winter said, the state would come up as much as 1,000 megawatts short of demand, and have to resort to power interruptions -- blackouts.
The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts are not a part of the ISO's electrical transmission grid, and both districts say they have sufficient power to avoid problems this summer.
Still, MID spokeswoman Maree Hawkins said the Modesto district would comply with requests from the ISO. "If the ISO goes with a rolling blackout of the grid, MID will comply. We will assist them in any way possible to avoid emergencies and help out if it happens," Hawkins said.
Under a rolling blackout, power would be shut off to small portions of the electric grid in half-hour blocks, Hawkins said.
TID spokesman Jim Freschi said the Turlock district is willing to make any surplus power it has available to the ISO, but probably would not participate in a blackout or voluntary power curtailment called by the ISO.
"It depends on the situation. We would not think it necessary to ask customers to cut consumption if we have enough resources," Freschi said.
It shouldn't come to a blackout, Winter said. Many industrial customers in the state signed up for an "interruptible" rate, which gives them a cheaper rate in exchange for agreeing to shut off the power in a shortage situation, Winter said.
The state can reduce peak load by 1,000 megawatts through those voluntary industrial shut-downs, Winter said.
The ISO also has launched a program that will pay industrial customers the market price for power that they volunteer to curtail during peak energy periods.
Winter said users of 500 megawatts of power have agreed to bid into that program. Another 500 megawatts can be saved by businesses volunteering to shift power use away from peak times, Winter said.
The final strategy is asking residential customers to conserve energy on hot afternoons, Winter said.
That involves strategies like setting air conditioning thermostats at a higher temperature, closing drapes to prevent the sun from heating the home and shifting major appliance use to cooler times of day.
The ISO will issue "Power Watch 2000" alerts 24 hours in advance of forecast high- demand periods, asking residential customers to cut back.
ISO officials aren't sure how much of the peak demand can be reduced through residential conservation, but it is potentially very significant, Winter said.
If power reserves fall below certain levels, staged alerts are issued, Hawkins said.
A Stage 1 occurs when reserves fall below 7 percent, and customers are encouraged to conserve where possible.
A Stage 2 occurs if reserves are below 5 percent. Customers are asked to reduce all non- urgent power use, and the interruptible power customers are taken offline.
In a Stage 3, customers are asked to immediately postpone use of major appliances, and the ISO can order rotating blackouts, Hawkins said.
The rotating blackouts haven't been necessary in the past, Hawkins said. "We have found that when people are asked to reduce the load, they really do."
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 11, 2000