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Most of California should have adequate power this summer, but reliability concerns persist in Southern California


From the May 8, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published May 8, 2013

Most of California should have an adequate supply of electricity this summer, but the shutdown of the 2,200-MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station "continues to heighten reliability concerns in Southern California this summer," the California Independent System Operator Corp. said in its 2013 summer assessment. The reliability risks to southern Orange and San Diego counties are "marginally more challenging" this summer, but still within planning standards, the ISO said.

A coordinated industry contingency plan developed by local utilities, state energy agencies and the ISO includes converting two retired units at Huntington Beach to synchronous condensers, which will provide critical voltage support, CAISO said. That equipment, along with newly installed transmission upgrades in the Los Angeles Basin, will increase the ability of local transmission lines to carry increased imported power into the area, the ISO said. 

However, the ISO cautioned that heat waves complicated by higher than expected power plant outages in key areas of Southern California or transmission limitations triggered by wildfires or other reasons could challenge grid reliability, especially in southern Orange and San Diego counties. During these peak periods, ISO said it will count on customers participating in local demand response and conservation programs to help out during rapidly changing grid conditions. "We ask consumers to watch for Flex Alerts on TV and radio and conserve electricity to ensure enough power for everyone," said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. 

Under normal summer conditions there should be an adequate supply of electricity resources for the rest of its system, the ISO said, although the drought this year will limit typical hydroelectricity levels by more than 1,000 MW. 

Operating reserve margins could narrow from about 20 percent down to 7 percent in Northern California during extreme conditions, but above the level that puts customers at risk of power outages, the ISO said. In Southern California, the cushion could drop to 6 percent during high peak demand, but is still expected to be above the 3 percent reserve level at which service interruptions could occur. 

The system-wide peak electric demand is expected to reach 47,413 MW this summer, which would be 738 MW more than the actual peak of 46,675 MW in 2012, according to the assessment. The all-time record peak demand was 50,270 MW in 2006. An estimated 51,068 MW of capacity (including new generation) will be available this summer within the ISO grid, the assessment said. From June 1, 2012 to April 1, 2013, a total of 2,502 MW has come on line and an additional 891 MW is expected to energize by June 1, 2013, the ISO said. Twenty-four percent of the new capacity comes from wind and solar power. 

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