News Roundup: CAISO Calls for Conservation, PG&E Reaches 10M Securities Settlement

By Published On: February 17, 2021

Updated Feb. 18

In a reversal of high heat and demand causing rolling blackouts in California, Texas suffered far larger and longer blackouts this week because of unusually icy conditions. More than 4 million customers lost power because thermal power plants were unable to operate. Wind turbines also froze.

“Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units–across fuel types–to trip offline and become unavailable,” the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas stated early Feb. 15. More than 34,000 MW of generation was unable to operate. In some cases, gas was unavailable to fuel power plants because natural gas supplies froze.

The California Independent System Operator asked Californians to conserve “over the next several days of freezing weather in the Midwest and South, to help relieve stress on electricity grids there.” Energy conservation during the evening hours allows CAISO to export resources, and also frees up supply to stay in states that need it, added Vonette Fontaine, CAISO spokesperson.

The call for conservation also was in response to soaring natural gas prices in Southern California.

At one SoCal hub, prices were reported to rise from $3 MMBtu to $140 on Tuesday. In the day-ahead market, they spiked to $800.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is keeping close tabs on the extreme weather conditions occurring in much of the country and the impact it is having on electric reliability, FERC Chair Rick Glick said. 

“In the days ahead, we will be examining the root causes of these reliability events, but, for now, the focus must remain on restoring power as quickly as possible and keeping people safe during this incredibly challenging situation,” Glick added.

CAISO filed an emergency order at FERC Feb. 17 to ensure gas generators without long-term contracts can recover their higher fuel costs. It applies to justified costs that exceed the soft market cap of $1,000 MWh.

By Thursday, about 500,00 people in Texas remained without heat, and in some cases running water. ERCOT warned of more outages to come.

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A $10 million settlement was reached between Pacific Gas & Electric and investors who claimed the parent company and its executives misrepresented the adequacy of its wildfire prevention work and then shut off power to huge swaths of customers because of fires in October 2018.

The class action suit was brought by Iron Workers Locals and individual investors, who invested in PG&E stock, which fell in value. Their suit claims PG&E misrepresentations about the effect of its fire reduction work violated the Securities Exchange Act.

The class action suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Oct. 23, 2018. The settlement was announced Feb. 14, and awaits approval by Judge Haywood Gilliam.

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