Kate Thomas, Oil & Gas Journal Online
With summer approaching, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) is tentatively forecasting a June shortfall of 6,815 MW during peak loads, enough electricity to power roughly 6.8 million homes.
The prospect of such catastrophic outages is “unbelievable,” says Ed Krapels, director of gas and power for Energy Security Analysis Inc. “That’s an amazing number.”
In a February 1 assessment of summer resources, CEO Terry Winter outlined a bleak picture for California Gov. Gray Davis’s newly appointed ISO board. The forecast lays out the magnitude of the problem facing the state for the first time, clearly underscoring the need for strict conservation and new generation to avoid a summer even more precarious than last.
But with time short, conservation and demand management appear to be the only realistic tools available to deal with a heightening crisis, according to Winter’s presentation. Moreover, the problems continue to be exacerbated by transmission system constraints that prevent power from moving freely from points where there is a surplus to areas with deficits.
He forecasts shortfalls will peak in June. Winter has projected the total capacity needed within the ISO control area in June will be 49,462 MW, including operating reserve requirements, compared to total available resources of just 41,500 MW. The different amounts to a 6,815 MW deficit.
Winter’s calculations show potential shortfalls of 300 MW in January, 201 in February, none in March and April, 3,030 MW in May, 4,685 MW in July, 5,297 MW in August, and 1,472 in September.
“It’s not a pretty picture,” agreed Lisa Szot, an ISO spokeswoman. “The fear has been that people have put on rose-colored glasses.” Should the forecast shortages materialize, she says, “We would cut off firm load and it would affect thousands of people.”
A preliminary estimate of existing electric power resources within the ISO control area covering about 75 percent of the state show total capacity of 44,050 MW. That includes 10,300 MW of hydroelectric resources, 23.4 percent of the total; 8,200 MW of special purpose power plants, 19 percent; 200 MW of wind, 0.1 percent; 1,950 MW of peaking power, 4.4 percent; 19,000 MW of thermal, 43 percent; and 4,400 MW of nuclear, 10 percent.
Compared to last summer, the state has less hydroelectric to draw on; less imports; less power from special purpose plants, also known as qualifying facilities; and no interruptible load. Last year at this time, the ISO was projecting net imports totaling 6,500 to 7,100 MW for summer 2000. This year, Winter is projecting net firm imports of just 2,000 to 5,500 MW this summer.
The ISO could call upon total curtailable of 2,780 MW last summer to avoid rolling blackouts. This year the grid operator has already used up Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s credits to avoid forced outages in January.
Kate Thomas is a power editor for PennWell’s Oil & Gas Journal online (www.ogjonline.com).