power glut? What gives?

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So how come the power co's can't just stop running water through a couple of their hydro plants until it's needed later? Water stored above the generators is called "potential energy"


Cool weather brings California energy glut, causing state to sell surplus power at a loss

KAREN GAUDETTE, Associated Press Writer

Thursday, July 19, 2001, 2001 Associated Press

URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2001 /07/19/financial0358EDT0024.DTL&type=news

(07-19) 00:58 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

Unseasonably cool weather has turned the California power crisis on its head, with recent energy shortages giving way to a glut that's prompted the state to sell excess power at a loss.

In some cases, traders say, energy bought at an average of $138 per megawatt is being sold for as little as $1 per megawatt.

State officials acknowledged selling excess power over the past week, but disputed the prices. They said the sales are a blip during a long, hot summer and blackouts are still possible if the mercury soars.

"This is unusual, but it was anticipated, it is typical in the power buying operation," said Oscar Hidalgo, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources, which is in charge of buying power for three financially ailing utilities. "It's better than doing nothing with surplus power."

The agency has spent the past few months arming the state with long-term energy contracts while weaning itself away from buying high-priced power on the last-minute electricity market.

Those contracts, along with the temperate weather and a boost in energy conservation, mean there's suddenly more power than Californians can use.

Hidalgo acknowledged the state has been trying to sell as much as 20 percent of its daily megawatts, though he would not say at what price. "We know from traders who have bought that it's gone as low as a dollar and last week we know it was as low as $5," said Gary Ackerman, executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum in San Jose.

Unlike natural gas, extra electricity cannot be stored and used later. Since Californians haven't been running their air conditioners as often as expected over the past week, the state hasn't needed the entire 38,000 megawatts it had figured it would need. A megawatt is enough electricity to power roughly 750 homes.

The surplus power sell-off could encourage criticism that the state bought too much power at too high a price in its haste to fend off blackouts.

"If the price is $138 on average for a month and you have to turn around and sell a chunk of it for a dollar, you're not going to look real good to a number of people," Ackerman said. "I just don't think many people in California truly understood what their state did when they stepped into this business."

Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for Gov. Gray Davis, said Ackerman has no evidence of California selling power for $1 a megawatt. He said a $25-per-megawatt price mentioned by California Energy Markets, a trade weekly, was "much closer to reality."

Some of the extra electricity is being sent to the Bonneville Power Administration, a power supplier in the Pacific Northwest, to repay it for power it loaned California earlier this year, Hidalgo said.

On the Net:

Western Power Trading Forum: www.wptf.org

Gov. Gray Davis: www.governor.ca.gov

2001 Associated Press

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2001


Isn't that a crock, JOJ?! "Hey you guys, we've got too much energy - run out and wate some, wouldja!"

Can they stop running the water through the turbines? Do they have room to hold back the water? Or could they divert it around rather than through the turbines? Not real sure (okay, not sure at all!!) of the mechanics involved there. Are most of your hydro dams on rivers, or lake resivoirs? I also wonder why all dams aren't hydro dams. Seems to me that if you COULD produce some power, even if not 24/7 and 365 days a year, that it is pretty silly not to. We have a dam on our local lake/reservoir that it seems to me could be used to produce at least enough power to take care of itself. But then again, who am I to talk: I have a 20+ acre woodlot and burn propane for heat.

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2001

hahahahha...the hogs at the trough are finding an empty trough. Several power supplier wannabes brought in numerous diesel generators hoping to help us poor power consumers,(as well as line their own pockets) but hey this is America. The people providing permits for siting these pollution spewing, noisy neighbors looked the other way when considering their impact on the lowly citizens of the area. I mean hey we got an emergency here. Now , as the emergency evaporates, and power is selling at less than their operating costs, they are dismantling them almost as fast as they put them in. Why, don't you think they would leave them in just for the good of their fellow citizens,just in case?

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2001

Polly most all hydro plants have dams on rivers or creeks. Since Calif is having a "major" drought, I would assume they could store up water for a long time this time of year, for use to generate power later. If they just release it around or through the dam, it goes to waste totally, at least as far as power goes.


-- Anonymous, July 23, 2001

Hey JOJ, I just wondered if they had room to store the water. Where we live, when the feds built this lake, they condemned and eminent domained and took well over half our ground for this lake, for flood control. The water has rarely reached it. So we have some storage capacity here in the lake, I'm not sure how low we are below normal summer pool right now, as we hadn't had any rain for a while, up to last week. I've been though Oregon, but am more familiar with the rivers in W. WA; they are much larger and swifter than our local rivers; so I did not know if curtailing them was an actual option.

Also, as you pointed out; while it would be a total waste as far as energy production goes; is the water needed downstream for other purposes (like watering golf courses and filling privite swimming pools - you know - importatnt stuff!)? :o(

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001

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