By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Oct. 11 -- California has little to fear in the way of blackouts this winter, unless a key transmission path becomes overloaded again, the California Independent System Operator said.
The San Francisco Bay Area could encounter some "operating challenges this winter," if Path 15 is overloaded, the grid operator said in its annual winter resources and peak load forecast. Path 15, the set of transmission lines in the middle of the state that move power from south to the north, historically is often overloaded during the winter season.
"Depending on actual Pacific Northwest import levels and northern California hydro levels, potential overloads on Path 15 could occur again this winter as a result of south to north power transfers," the ISO said.
But new plants in northern California should help relieve congestion on the lines, the ISO said. This optimistic forecast contrasts sharply with last winter when California experienced a series of blackouts and an ongoing energy crisis resulting in billions of unpaid power bills, the bankruptcies of the power exchange and one major utility, and the near bankruptcy of another utility.
This winter the California ISO expects sufficient resources given the forecast peak demand for the winter season and barring an unusually high forced outage rate or lower imports than anticipated. May is the only month the grid operator anticipates tighter supply-demand conditions.
"As a result of voluntary conservation, conservation programs, and a downward trend in economic growth, the overall peak demand requirements for the California ISO control area in 2001 are significantly below historic monthly peak load levels," the grid operator said.
The California ISO forecast that conservation efforts will continue, weather patterns will be normal, and fewer plants will go off line. In addition, 2,231 Mw of new capacity have come on line since Sept. 30. Moreover, recessionary economic conditions have dampened demand.
With more natural gas in storage, the fuel supply also is considered to be adequate, compared to last winter. No curtailment of gas supply to power plants in San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s service territory area is expected, the ISO said. In the past few years, natural gas delivery has been curtailed in that area several times, which affected availability of electric generation.
From January to May of last year, the state endured seven firm load curtailments, the California ISO said.