California’s Power Supply in Good Shape for Summer Peak

By Published On: May 25, 2007

Despite a dry winter and low spring snowmelt, California should have enough in-state capacity, load reduction, and imported power to meet peak energy demands this summer and avoid outages, forecasters assured state energy regulators May 22. “We don’t anticipate any concerns about capacity available for the peak summer months,” said California Energy Commission analyst Dave Ashuckian at an Energy Action Plan meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission and the CEC. California currently has 57,897 MW of generation statewide, with 46,265 MW in the California Independent System Operator’s control area. An additional 503 MW in CAISO’s control area and 656 MW statewide is expected to come on line this summer. Peak system reserves are at 22.8 percent for the grid operator and 22.3 percent statewide. The state’s reservoirs remain full because of excess capacity from last year’s heavy rains and Sierra snowpack. California will have access to more than 5,000 MW of surplus hydropower from the Bonneville Power Administration–more than half of the 9,000 MW of imported energy capacity needed to meet the state’s peak demand this summer. Hence, the likelihood of a Stage Three alert and forced outages remains infinitesimal–less than 1 percent in CAISO’s control area and NP26 and less than 4 percent in SP26, according to state staff. Nonetheless, there is a 95 percent probability that the grid operator will have to call on voluntary load-reduction programs to reduce demand on hot days, especially in the constrained SP26 region, Ashuckian said. Large industrial customers enrolled in interruptible programs can curtail 1,403 MW in CAISO’s control area and 1,603 MW statewide. Demand-response programs can conserve 524 MW this summer. The grid operator reported that it has added more than 15,500 MW of new generation capacity in its control area since 2000 while retiring 5,800 MW, for a net gain of 9,700 MW. CAISO has approved 402 new transmission projects worth $8.2 billion since 1998, including 41 new projects worth $3.2 billion from January 2006 through January 2007. CAISO’s grid reliability costs have decreased by $600 million since 2004 as a result of state policies providing resource adequacy along with investments in new generation and transmission. Meanwhile, regulators are moving ahead to implement the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standard for power plants as mandated by SB 1368. The intent is to promote long-term investment in clean energy resources to serve California’s baseload electricity needs and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020 as required by AB 32, said Kevin Kennedy, an Energy Commission analyst. Accelerated development of renewable energy resources is another critical goal in the Climate Action Plan. The state’s investor-owned electric utilities will be close to achieving the 20 percent renewables portfolio standard by 2010, said Judith Iklé of the CPUC. SB 411 would ramp up the RPS to 33 percent by 2020. “Business as usual gets us to 27 percent by 2020, not 33 percent,” Iklé said. The CPUC plans to adopt a program establishing competitive renewables zones on June 7, which is aimed at changing the economics of renewable energy and making it easier to achieve the 33 percent RPS, Iklé said. To achieve the state’s long-term renewables goals, energy regulators need to look at production technologies, grid integration, end use, and market support, Kate Zocchetti, a CEC renewable energy analyst, stressed. The CEC has identified the 15 most critical milestones that must be addressed through research and other activities over the next decade and has prioritized those milestones with outreach to the utilities, the business community, and CEC and CPUC staff. The CEC is focusing on design and installation technologies in the near term, such as integration of photovoltaics with advanced storage technologies. The CEC plans to invest up to $2 million in PV research.

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