Storm cuts California power supply

With California being pounded by a huge winter storm, the California Independent System Operator posted a Stage 2 emergency alert at dawn Thursday, warning the state may run short of electricity today. The ISO is not calling yet for interruptible customers to get off the system but advises utilities to inform those customers to be ready to shut off power. An enormous amount of generation is offline because of forced outages, including Diablo Canyon nuclear generating station, the ISO said.

Jan 11th, 2001


With California being pounded by a huge winter storm, the California Independent System Operator posted a Stage 2 emergency alert Thursday, warning the state may run short of electricity Thursday.

A Stage 2 is declared when operating reserves dip below 5% or are expected to within 2 hours.

The ISO is not calling yet for interruptible customers to get off the system but is advising utilities to inform those customers to be ready to shut off electricity early this evening during the peak load if asked.

�An enormous amount of generation is offline because of forced outages. Diablo Canyon nuclear generating station was reduced to 20% of its power and more than 1200 Mw of additional power fell out of service last night,� the ISO said in a release.

More than 13,000 Mw are out of service, the ISO says. The ISO is projecting a peak demand of 32,488 Mw tonight. The storm is producing heavy rains, snow, gusty winds and high surf.

Surf conditions caused Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to reduce power output from both units of Diablo Canyon units to only 432 Mw. The two units produce a maximum of 2,160 Mw. Plant officials say the high surf, of up to 20 feet, can clog the intake valves of the plant with debris and cause a cooling problem.

Complicating the power supply picture for California is the reduced amount of electricity that can be imported from the Northwest. That region has experienced a drier than normal season, reducing reservoir levels for hydroelectric power to only 54% full. Utilities and power providers in the Northwest say they do not have surplus power to sell to California. Usually during the winter, the Northwest imports power from California.

In December, US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson ordered all power suppliers that can sell into the California market to sell �surplus� power to that state.

�We don�t have any surplus. We are not selling to California,� says Dan Williams, spokesman for Seattle City Light, a municipally owned utility.

Bonneville Power Administration, a federally owned entity with an average production of 11,000 Mw of hydroelectric power, finds itself in a similar situation.

�We will only sell surplus to California. We don�t have any surplus right now,� Mike Hansen, spokesman for BPA says.

Hansen adds that it will continue to exchange power with California when they need it but on the condition that the same amount of power is returned within 24 hours.

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