Hydroelectric, Renewables

FERC warns of “troublesome conditions” in Calif

6 May 2004 – The head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday said he was concerned about “very troublesome conditions” in California’s electricity market and warned of a possible repeat of the state’s 2000-01 energy shortage.

“There are some very troublesome conditions out there,” FERC Chairman Pat Wood told reporters. “We’re clearly monitoring that.”

Wood said he gets two updates a day on California’s power situation. He pointed to low hydropower supplies on the West Coast and above-normal temperatures as factors threatening the state’s wholesale electricity supply.

“It looks like the days of yore,” Wood said, referring to California’s power shortage of 2000-01 that spurred blackouts and the bankruptcy of the state’s biggest utility.

He spoke to reporters following a monthly meeting of FERC commissioners. California’s grid has already had several close calls this year, mostly because of scorching temperatures in Southern California that have sparked heavy demand for air conditioning power.

On Monday, a heat wave forced the California Independent System Operator (ISO) to declare a transmission emergency. The California ISO, which operates the state’s power grid, and the Southern California Edison utility asked some businesses to turn off their lights to conserve power.

That day, demand on the grid exceeded 40 000 MW for the first time in 2004.

A grid spokesman was not available to respond to Wood’s comments.

The grid operator has expressed concern that steady population growth in Southern California’s Central Valley and Inland Empire could keep supplies tight.

The group is worried that an early snow melt in the Sierra Nevada mountains could crimp supplies of hydroelectricity, which provide about 20 per cent of California’s power, at the same time the Pacific Northwest has a below-normal hydro year.