Southern California Edison says summer blackouts still 'expected'

Southern California Edison Co. said despite lower energy use and increased supply than previously anticipated, blackouts are still 'expected' during the summer. Electricity imports are lower than anticipated in California and interruptible load participation is already near its limits.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, July 5 -- Southern California Edison Co. said, despite lower energy use and more supply than previously anticipated, blackouts are still "expected" during the summer.

Offsetting gains, electricity imports are lower than anticipated in California and interruptible load participation is already near its limits.

The SCE summer assessment resulted in a similar forecast for blackouts as the California Independent System Operator. Even though increased conservation has reduced energy use 4-5%, compared with 2000 and more qualifying facility (QF) generators are on line than previously anticipated, imports are drastically reduced from the Northwest and Southwest. Moreover, SCE said it has limited ability to call on interruptible load as the summer progresses.

The Rosemead, Calif., utility said it almost reached the limit of the number of hours it can call on interruptible customers to avoid rolling blackouts. Last year, 2,234 Mw was signed up under the interruptible program for SCE. This year only 1,043 Mw is part of the program.

The Northwest is experiencing its second worst year for hydroelectric power in recorded history. The region is also dealing with increased population supporting electric load growth. In the Southwest, load growth is also a factor in reduced exports to California

Generators inside California are exporting power out-of-state in expectation of higher prices and more certainty for payment.

SCE said California's supply of electricity is improving and cited the following:

� Generation outages have dropped from 12,000 Mw to 4,000-5,000 Mw.

� QF generation is returning to service (only 75 Mw off line in SCE territory.)

� Hydro output has temporarily increased.

� 857 Mw of new generation came on line by July 1 in California.

� California Department of Water Resources has firmed up supply commitments.

� Installation of on site generation among customers is increasing.

SCE also cited the falling price of wholesale electricity as a positive. In May, the average cost of electricity was $102/Mw-hr, compared to $358/Mw-hr for February, $307/Mw-hr for March, and $372/Mw-hr for April.

But SCE said falling prices will not cure a megawatt deficiency that will lead to outages this summer. But the company is much more optimistic for 2002 and beyond, concluding that planned new generation will outpace growth in demand.

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