California power crisis eases a bit

California Independent System Operator officials say they expect to avoid calling a Stage 3 power emergency Friday, after narrowly averting rolling blackouts Thursday. The ISO declared its first Stage 3 emergency Thursday, allowing the grid operator to receive emergency assistance from the Western Area Power Administration. The Stage 3 emergency, signifying power reserves have fallen to 1.5%, was terminated at 7:30 p.m., but a Stage 2 emergency remains in effect Friday.


California Independent System Operator officials say they expect to avoid calling a Stage 3 power emergency Friday, after narrowly averting rolling blackouts Thursday.

The ISO declared its first Stage 3 emergency late Thursday, allowing the grid operator to receive emergency assistance from the Western Area Power Administration and avoid involuntary power interruptions. The Stage 3 emergency, signifying power reserves have fallen to 1.5%, was terminated at 7:30 p.m., but a Stage 2 emergency remains in effect Friday.

Demand tapers off on Friday in advance of the weekend and some plants that were down because of air emission compliance issues were permitted to return to service Thursday, easing the crisis, a spokeswoman said. AES Corp. put 600 Mw back on line.

Thus far, the ISO has issued Stage 2 emergency declarations, the middle of three levels of shortage alerts, each day this week, and asked for customers with interruptible service rates to reduce their loads. The ISO and California utilities have reportedly paid up $1 million/hr this week to import 1,000 Mw from Powerex, a unit of Canada's BC Hydro.

Southern California Edison Co., a unit of Edison International, asked customers to reduce power consumption during late afternoon and early afternoon hours through the weekend in anticipation of an Arctic cold front expected to drive temperatures down in the Northwest, limiting exports from that region of the country. California ordinarily exports excess power to the Northwest in winter.

Sempra Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) executives called upon California Gov. Gray Davis to direct air districts to temporarily lift emissions limits for in-state power plants and put back into operation plants that have recently suspended operations because they have met or exceeded their air-emissions limits.

In the letter to Gov. Davis, Sempra Energy CEO Stephen L. Baum and Edwin Guiles, group president of regulated operations of Sempra Energy, asked the governor to help remedy the state's accelerating energy crisis by using his emergency powers to require in-state generators to operate their power plants when directed to by the ISO. Next week, conditions may worsen when a severe cold front hits the western US, they noted.

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