California ISO invokes federal order to buy power

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) Wednesday issued a request for 3,000 Mw in supplemental bids and was operating under 'no touch' conditions, after invoking a federal order Tuesday requiring generators and marketers throughout the West to sell surplus power to California with 12 hours notice from the ISO. The order was issued late last week by US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson.


The California Independent System Operator (ISO) Wednesday issued a request for 3,000 Mw in supplemental bids and was operating under "no touch" conditions, after invoking a federal order Tuesday requiring generators and marketers throughout the West to sell surplus power to California with 12 hours notice from the ISO.

The order was issued late last week by US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson. The grid operator said it invoked the unprecedented order because of a lack of resources in northern California and the inability to get additional resources from the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday the ISO declared a Stage 2 emergency for northern California after the loss of the 500 kv Midway-Vincent No. 3 line due to arcing at the Vincent substation. The line is part of Path 15, a group of high voltage power lines that feed electricity back and forth between northern and southern California.

For more than a week, ISO operators have grappled with path congestion that occurs on Path 15, when demand in northern California draws electricity from the southern end of the state. The ISO said the line outage limited the flow of electricity to just 650 Mw from southern to northern California.

Electricity in the state remains in short supply due to cold temperatures in the Northwest that have limited imports. In addition, the grid operator said 7,500 Mw of in-state generation remains off line because of planned and unplanned outages.

Richardson took the unusual step of invoking his authority under the Federal Power Act 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 investor-owned 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.

The order requires 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.

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