Edison Assures Panel No Summer Blackouts

By Published On: June 20, 2013

While a couple members of the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee were skeptical, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric representatives assured them that utilities expected normal summer temperatures—avoiding blackouts or brownouts. They added, though, in the near future big investments in new transmission, generation, and repowers would be required to assure reliability. “I think we’re well-positioned for this summer,” said Caroline Choi, Edison vice president of integrated planning and environmental affairs at the committee’s June 17 informational hearing on Southern California reliability. “Sunrise changed the dynamic,” Jim Avery, SDG&E senior vice president, power supply, explained. Not only can the east-west line bring power from the desert and cross-borders, but it is a “workhorse” for inertia—the process of pushing electrons through the system to maintain voltage and frequency, he added. Choi noted that prior to Sunrise, the transmission system was built to move power from the coastal areas. Fossil-fueled coastal plants are “Korean War-age” now, said California Energy Commission chair Bob Weisenmiller. They’re not only on the state’s chopping block for consuming water, but they are inefficient and take long ramp-up times to help with the grid. Panelists, led by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), wanted assurances that retired power plants—like the 9,000 MWs expected to close due to restrictions on water intake—not be decommissioned. They want the plants to remain dormant just in case they can be quickly repowered. Flowing through the discussion was the permanent shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The panel also was concerned with other policies that may restrict reliability. In addition to plants shutting down due to the state’s requirements on once-through cooled plants, they are worried about managing the grid with a substantial amount of intermittent renewable power, and the role of air pollution reduction, according to chair Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood). While assembly members were concerned about new investments’ effect on rates, and rate volatility, reliability was at the top of their agenda. “We’re going to need additional generation and transmission, as well as demand-response,” said Avery. The speed with which those investments and construction can be accomplished concerned lawmakers. Siting generation facilities can take years at the California Energy Commission. Then, transmission approvals are also required at the California Public Utilities Commission—as well as other state and local concerns. Weisenmiller assured the panel that siting is getting faster. “It’s a collision of need and the procurement process,” added California Independent System Operator chief executive officer Steve Berberich. He said that the governor asked the relevant agencies to put together a plan on reliability right away in response to San Onofre’s permanent closure.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now