Hydroelectric, Renewables

Pacific Northwest remains under power alert warning

Dec. 11, 2000—The Pacific Northwest remains under an electricity warning Monday.

But the severe weather that could have threatened reliability in the region was not as bad as anticipated, says Dick Adams, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee.

�The Northwest Emergency Response Team is still meeting on a daily basis to assess the power situation in the Pacific Northwest,� says Adams. �Today it was decided to continue the warning since we can�t count on our friends from California sending any power.�

On Dec. 8, the Pacific Northwest Emergency Response Team issued a warning of a potential �alert 2� because of expected high demand given the supply and constraints on imports.

The Northwest is having unseasonably early high demand for power and California is experiencing a continuous shortage of generation because of scheduled and forced outages in the face of high demand and limited ability to import power, too. The California Independent System Operator has issued Stage 1 and 2 alerts for about 2 weeks, appealing for conservation and calling on interruptible customers to shed load in order to prevent system unreliability and possible blackouts.

The Pacific Northwest usually imports power from California during the winter. California is supposed to have a summer peak and the Northwest a winter peak.

Adams says the Northwest region is �hopeful� it can get through this period, if power plants don�t �break� and more water in the reservoirs can be positioned and released to generate additional power.

The Bonneville Power Administration, which owns and operates 15,318 Mw of hydroelectric power, is running its plants beyond the guidelines specified by environmental authorities, says Mike Hansen, spokesman for BPA.

�We are sustaining our peak capacity by running at full throttle,� says Hansen. �But this could have repercussions in spring on stream flow for fish and even for power generation later on in the winter.�

It all depends on how many days this has to keep up, he says.

Right now utilities are meeting demand without �leaning on us too hard,� he says.

Bonneville can always raise the price it offers certain industrial users to switch off power and get as much as 1,000 Mw off the system, says Hansen.

�We haven�t had to do that yet,� he says.