California ISO blames transmission for emergency

With transmission constraints limiting electricity movements to northern California, the California Independent System Operator expects to declare a Stage 2 emergency Tuesday afternoon and possibly Wednesday, Kellan Fluckiger, chief operating officer, said during a morning telephone press conference. Fluckiger said the Northwest power authorities canceled an emergency alert Tuesday morning, freeing up some electric generation resources that can be diverted to California.


With transmission constraints limiting electricity movements to northern California, the California Independent System Operator expects to declare a Stage 2 emergency Tuesday afternoon and possibly Wednesday, Kellan Fluckiger, chief operating officer, said during a morning telephone press conference.

The ISO called a Stage 1 emergency at 1:30 a.m. PST, signifying reserves were below 7%. Fluckiger said the Northwest power authorities canceled an emergency alert Tuesday morning, freeing up some electric generation resources that can be diverted to California.

Under normal circumstances, Fluckiger said the ISO can count on importing about 6,000-8,000 Mw of power from out-of-state. Lately, that has dropped to 300-400 Mw, except during peak demand, when the ISO can usually scrape together about 3,000 Mw, he explained.

Tuesday's forecast peak demand on the grid is expected to reach 34,225 Mw at about 6 p.m. PST. About 8,500 Mw remains off line, including about 3,700 Mw down for planned maintenance, with the balance out of service because they are broken, Fluckiger said. He said about 1,000-1,500 Mw could be back in service by week's end. Earlier this month, more than 11,000 Mw was unavailable due to scheduled and unscheduled maintenance.

More generation has come back on line in the south than in the north, Fluckiger said, leading to congestion north to south. Prices stayed higher in northern California throughout November because transmission northward on Path 15 was congested 73% of the time, according to an analysis by the California Energy Commission (CEC).

Fluckiger said the ISO has also deferred maintenance on some units and rescheduled it for spring, "a decision that could come back to bite us." Moreover, the water situation for hydroelectric generation in both California and the Northwest is not good, he explained.

Fluckiger said the Bonneville Power Administration is presently running water scheduled for February, creating a potential problem for next summer, unless the region gets more rain soon.

The ISO is working with the California Power Exchange (CalPX) to solve a problem with software that results in CalPX congestion bids being kicked back if they exceed a $250 cap, Fluckiger said. Without immediate action, CalPX officials said in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission electricity bids will once again shift into the real-time ISO market from the day-ahead and day-of markets run by the exchange.

Resolving the problem will require work on both sides and is still ongoing, Fluckiger said. Prices hit more than $800/Mw-hr in the CalPX market. Fluckiger attributed high power prices to rising gas prices. The CEC estimated wholesale power costs, including ancillary services such as operating reserves, totaled $3 billion during the month of November, based on CalPX prices.

Through November, the sum of ancillary service and energy cost in the ISO control area is about $21 billion, the CEC said, compared to about $7.3 billion for all 1999.

More in General Interest