California steps up to Stage 2 emergency


The California Independent System Operator stepped up to a Stage 2 emergency Tuesday morning as the grid operator continued to grapple with constraints on Path 15, the high-voltage transmission lines that feed electricity back and forth between northern and southern California.

Meanwhile, negotiations are under way in Washington, DC, and Sacramento today among state and federal officials and California utilities on how resolve the continuing crisis. Wednesday, US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson is scheduled to meet in Denver with western governors and energy executives to discuss the region's electricity problems.

The Stage 2 emergency declaration, signifying reserves have fallen below 5%, is in effect until 10 p.m. PST, and affects mostly northern California, the ISO said. Earlier, it issued a Stage 1 emergency. Demand is forecast to peak at 33,090 Mw. Early Tuesday morning the ISO issued a request for supplemental bids of 3,000 Mw.

According to market operations, the problem is again associated with a power deficit in northern California. A bottleneck occurs on the lines when demand for power draws generation supply from southern California to the point power lines approach and sometimes exceed transmission capacity.

The ISO asked participating transmission owners to notify utility distribution companies within their operational areas. that operating reserves are less than minimum and called for general conservation measures. It also advised the distribution companies to prepare for imminent implementation of interruptible load programs.

Last week, the ISO battled to get power to the northern part of the state on Path 15, the frequently overloaded north-south transmission line. Twice during the week, California teetered on the edge of rolling blackouts as the ISO scrambled to find power that could be imported from the Northwest.

The urgency of the situation led to an order by US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson requiring 75 generators and marketers in the West to sell surplus power to California. The order is set to expire at 3 p.m. Thursday, unless Richardson extends it.

Richardson initially acted Wednesday after power suppliers threatened to halt sales to California for fear they might not be paid by the state's biggest utilities, now strapped by more than $8 billion in power costs. California utilities have bought electricity at high wholesale prices but have not been able to pass the full amount to consumers because they are operating under a rate freeze.

Talks are scheduled in Washington, DC, and Sacramento Tuesday among state and federal officials and California utilities on how much to raise electricity rates and on how to implement new contracting rules proposed in an order the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Friday.

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