Calif. grid operator issues power alert due to low supply : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

California grid operator issues power alert due to low supply

Posted at 4:35 p.m. PST Tuesday, March 27, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California's power grid operator issued a ``Stage Two'' alert Tuesday, the second highest on its three-level emergency system, citing a severe lack of available energy supplies.

``It's the same situation we've been in since last week,'' said Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the group that oversees most of the state's transmission grid.

The state was plunged into rolling blackouts for two consecutive days last week when the ISO ordered circuit breakers shut to millions of Californians in a bid to avoid toppling the overstrained grid.

Dorinson said the main problem Tuesday was a shortage of electricity supplies, not customer demand, which is typically light during the mild spring months.

The ISO said about 11,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity was currently off line for maintenance or emergency repairs while a further 3,000 MW from small independent generators was shut for non-payment by the state's near-bankrupt utilities.

One megawatt is roughly the amount of electricity needed to run 1,000 homes or small businesses at any given moment.

A shortage of hydro-electricity from the drought-stricken Northwest was also seen cutting deeply into available supplies.

Dorinson said about 1,100 MW of power had been lost Tuesday from Northwest power plants.

To help ease the strain on the grid, the ISO ordered Southern California Edison to drop service to several of its industrial customers, thereby saving about 1,350 MW of energy.

Those customers that lost power participate in a voluntary ''interruptibles'' program in which they buy electricity at a discount on the condition that their service can be briefly cut when supplies run dangerously low.

California has been struggling for months to keep the lights on, with a financial crisis among its investor-owned utilities and a woeful lack of new power plants leaving unmet the growing power needs of its 34 million residents and technology-driven economy.

Industry analysts point out that the state is vulnerable to blackouts this time of year, when many power plants take advantage of the mild weather and low energy demand to shut for maintenance.

Spring maintenance programs aim to put the plants in good running order for the long, hot summer, when air conditioning demand pushes electricity use to its annual peak.

The ISO has warned that California faces an energy shortfall this summer of about 5,000 MW and could face up to 200 hours of blackouts.

Energy demand on the grid Tuesday was forecast by the ISO at a modest 29,285 MW, climbing to 29,351 MW Wednesday.

By comparison, the ISO has predicted demand on the grid will likely top 45,000 MW this summer, when air conditioning accounts for about a third of the state's electricity use.

-- Swissrose (, March 27, 2001

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