New California law requires ISO to list off line plants

The California Independent System Operator must disclose the names and locations of out-of-service plants, something it has resisted up to now, under a new state law Gov. Gray Davis signed Thursday. The law calls for the ISO to publish on the Internet the names of power plants out of service due to either planned or unplanned outages. A spokesman for the ISO Friday said the grid operator's general counsel is reviewing the legislation.


Kate Thomas
OGJ Online

The California Independent System Operator must disclose the names and locations of out-of-service plants, something it has resisted up to now, under a new state law Gov. Gray Davis signed Thursday.

The law calls for the ISO to publish on the Internet the names of power plants out of service due to either planned or unplanned outages. A spokesman for the ISO Friday said the grid operator's general counsel is reviewing the legislation.

"It will have to be worked out with the generators," said Patrick Dorinson, ISO spokesman. "There will have to be implementation discussions."

The requirement was incorporated into AB 5X which also calls for replacing the 25-member stakeholder ISO board with a 5-member independent board appointed by the governor and prohibits the ISO from joining a multistate regional transmission organization without state approval.

Up to now, the grid operator has declined to publicly disclose specific plants outages because generators consider the information commercially sensitive. But with up to 11,000 Mw of generation, including hydroelectric plants, out of service at a time the state is experiencing rolling blackouts questions continue to be raised about the underlying reasons.

The outages have stirred suspicion generators are deliberately withholding power from the market either to jack up prices, or because they are concerned they won't get paid for power they produce. Although the state has now stepped into purchase power, Southern California Edison Co., a unit of Sempra Energy, and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a unit of PG&E, are billions of dollars in the hole for power they purchased without being able to pass the full amount on to retail customers. Both have missed payments on certain debt.

Jan Smutny-Jones, current ISO chairman and executive director of the California Independent Energy Producers Association, said he does not expect the law to be challenged "at the moment. The law is the law," he said.

While generators have considered the information commercially sensitive, Smutny-Jones said the organization recently has encouraged members to indicate which of their plants are off line and why.

"There's no big secret here," he said. "There are some who have tried to demonize generators." But he noted many California units are "Korean War" vintage and therefore susceptible to breakdown.

It's true publicly releasing the information could effect market dynamics, Smutny-Jones said, but "when you legislate based on a crisis you often have unintended consequences. If that is what results, they will have to deal with it in another legislative session."

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