California ISO gets more bad news on plants

Most peak power units in California will not be able to operate after May 2001 without special variances from environmental authorities and five base load plants will be out of service until mid-June, Tracy Bibb, director of scheduling and outage for the California Independent System Operator, said. Bibb delivered the bad news at Thursday�s board meeting. He said 1,450 Mw of peaking units have already exhausted 50-75% of their annual nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions allowables.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Apr. 13--Most peak power units in California will not be able to operate after May 2001 without special variances from environmental authorities and five base load plants will be out of service until mid-June, Tracy Bibb, director of scheduling and outage for the California Independent System Operator, said.

Bibb delivered the bad news at Thursday�s board meeting. He said 1,450 Mw of peaking units have already exhausted 50-75% of the time they are allow to operate based on their emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. Units that run after using up their allowable hours ordinarily are subject to heavy environmental fines and legal consequences.

The ISO is working with the California Air Resource Board and other local air quality boards on a plan to insure these peaking units can continue to operate after the allowances are exhausted. They are developing criteria under which the plants would be allowed to operate.

"The variances will have conditions attached," said Bibb, mostly restricting the plants to operating during emergencies. He said the peaking units can only run to unload transmission lines, avoid a Stage 3 emergency preceding rolling outages, or unload Path 15 allowing power to flow north. The peakers will be dispatched by the ISO only for system reliability and not for economic reasons, Bibb said.

Moreover, he said five large base load plants which the grid operator expected to be on line to help meet summer demand will not be available for operation until mid-June. He said 1,000 Mw undergoing upgrades to comply with environmental rules won't be available until then because the work simply won't be finished. Plant operators are working round the clock to try to complete the jobs.

"Because so much of this work has been deferred, five of these units will not be upgraded until after the summer [begins]," said Bibb.

The news represented another setback as California prepares for a summer in which most analysts have predicted outages are almost inevitable. The ISO�s summer forecast released earlier in March assumed all available power plants would be up and running and none would be down for routine maintenance.

While the grid operator is still assuming variances allowing the 1,450 Mw of peaking units to operate will be obtained by summer, nothing can be done about the 1,000 Mw of base load that will not be back on line until mid-June.

"We would have preferred to finish all maintenance by first of June, obviously," Bibb said.

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