Grid Handles Heat Wave

By Published On: July 13, 2012

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station outage continues to influence the California Independent System Operator’s short- and long-term planning and operations. But the news from the grid operator is that consumers saw nothing different after being tested by the summer’s first heat wave this week. The wholesale market also was calm despite the weather. The Sunrise Powerlink transmission line “is really, really helping,” Steve Berberich, grid operator chief executive officer, said July 12. He said that’s because the line, commissioned in June, is able to “import several hundred megawatts” to the area formerly served by the nuclear facility. The outage is significantly altering long-term planning, however. “We have to contemplate a future when SONGS won’t be around. And, we have to contemplate a future when both nuclear plants won’t be around,” said Berberich. In the short term, Huntington Beach units 3 and 4--which were revived to operate for support of the San Onofre area if needed--“are being run as little as possible,” Berberich added. Staff noted the pollution permits that are allowing the older plants to run this summer expire in October. Also in the short term, Riverside, which owns 1 percent of San Onofre, is attempting new programs to relieve potential electricity constraints. The city is in one of the hottest parts of the state, reporting temperatures in the 100s this week. The city asked 25 of its largest customers to drop consumption on request, without payment. They accepted, according to David Wright, Riverside utility general manager. No conservation alerts were posted this week by the grid operator. Peak demand reached its apex July 11, with 42,862 MW being consumed from the grid. Wholesale prices remained generally low during hot afternoons, about $30/MWh, although prices spiked above $300/MWh at least once. With the nuclear outage causing CAISO to scramble to provide resource adequacy in the local area, it is poised to take charge of resource adequacy for all investor-owned utility territories. Despite protests from utility representatives that the grid operator is moving too fast, the board voted to implement the planned takeover of resource adequacy from the California Public Utilities Commission at the beginning of next year. Currently, the commission is responsible for making sure there is enough statewide generation to cover 115 percent of customer demand. Regulators handed over that duty to the grid operator. Some generators noted specific glitches in the new resource adequacy plans, but staff, with the board’s assent, maintained that it’s better to have something in place, and “refine it as we go along.”

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