Calif. supplies 'dangerously low'

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Calif. supplies 'dangerously low' Day 29 of top power alert marked by 10,000-MW outage

By Myra P. Saefong, CBS.MarketWatch.com Last Update: 6:07 PM ET Feb 13, 2001 Newswatch Latest Headlines Get Alerted FOLSOM, Calif. (CBS.MW) - California's electricity grid operator warned of possible rotating electrical outages Tuesday, the state's 29th-straight day with critically low operating-power reserves. Reserves were "dangerously low" because 10,000 megawatts were unavailable Tuesday due to planned and forced generation unit outages, the California Independent System Operator said. A single megawatt provides enough power to service about 1,000 homes.

The Cal ISO, which manages about 75 percent of the state's transmission power grid, asked Southern California Edison (EIX: news, msgs) earlier Tuesday to implement its voluntary load curtailment plan and reduce its load by 1,100 megawatts.

Through the program, the utility is allowed to reduce power to customers who agree to have their electricity cut during emergency situations in return for lower electric rates.

Pacific Gas & Electric, another of the state's investor-owned utilities, is unable to implement its voluntary plan because it had exhausted its limit curtailment for the entire year in a single month.

The Cal ISO told SoCal Edison that it expects to be 600 megawatts short of the power it needs to meet the state's needs between the peak usage hours of 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., due to reduced availability of both northern California hydroelectric power and out-of-state energy supplies, the utility said.

A shortage of power due to planned and unplanned generation unit outages prompted the grid operator to implement forced rolling blackouts on Jan. 17 and 18.

SoCal Edison, a unit of Edison International (EIX: news, msgs) and PG&E Corp.'s (PCG: news, msgs) Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG: news, msgs) are both on the verge of bankruptcy because they've been forced to buy electricity on the wholesale market at rates far above what they're allowed to charge retail customers under state regulations.

http://www2.marketwatch.com/news/story.asp?guid=%7B0EE57A86%2DF7D6%2D445D%2DB4A9%2DCA77A722900E%7D&source=htx/http2_mw

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 13, 2001

Answers

Another tantalizing tidbit and then the subject is dropped. One sentence in the first paragraph about planned and unplanned maintenance. Why all the unplanned? It has been running equal to, or greater than, planned! That doesn't seem normal. It is obviously an important factor in the power shortfall. Why isn't it discussed? The only reasoms, in the few times given, are wear or mechanical problems. Is it possible that the embedded chips are taking their toll? In the fall of '99, the utilities said locating the chips was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Fix on fail was the option of choice. Is/has that been the cause of unscheduled downtime for power generation facilities? Anyone out there familiar with the reliability of power plants?

-- Warren Ketler (wrkttl@earthlink.net), February 13, 2001.

Here is another tidbit from another source.

California back on blackout watch; BPA also on alert

HOUSTON, Feb. 13ŚWith 10,000 Mw out of service, electricity reserves are "dangerously low" raising the possibility of rotating blackouts during Tuesday's peak evening demand, the California grid operator said. During a 4 p.m. PST briefing Tuesday, Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for the California Independent System Operator (ISO), said the situation "appears to be looking better. But with these margins, anything could happen." Now in its 29th day of the highest emergency alert, the ISO has not had to interrupt firms customers since mid-January. To avoid rotating outages, Dorinson said the ISO called on Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a unit of PG&E Corp., to ask for volunteers from its interruptible load program to turn off power at 6 p.m. PST. But Dorinson noted the program has ended and customers who participated are no longer required to go off line. Likewise, he said, the ISO might ask Southern California Edison to call for voluntary interruptions. Because of a cold spell, demand spiked up 1,300 Mw Tuesday morning over the previous day, just at a time the grid operator lost an additional 2,000 Mw of generation. Dorinson said the plants were down because of mechanical problems. He said the ISO has been able to obtain 3,000 Mw from the Northwest. However, Tuesday the Bonneville Power Administration said generation on the Columbia River is being increased through the end of the week to avoid power shortages in the Northwest during the current cold weather. Greg Delwiche, BPA vice president for power supply, said spring runoff into the Columbia River is now forecast to be the fourth lowest in over 70 years. Hydro generation this winter has been 4,000 Mw less than the past 5-year average. Meanwhile, power normally available from California has dried up due to shortages there.

http://ogj.pennnet.com/Content/cd_anchor_printscreen/1,1242,OGJ_7_NEWS _DISPLAY_92324_1_7,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 13, 2001.


FOF = FUBAR on Failure

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), February 14, 2001.

Martin, thanks for the tidbit. Like the others, the only reason given is "mechanical problems" or "wear", neither of which are very informative. The available lists of planned vs unplanned generators down look rather suspicious but don't go back far enough in time to demonstrate something fishy. From past experience working on reliability studies for the Navy, unscheduled failures of that magnitude were VERY unusual. Electric power generation equipment might be different, but it's doubtful>

-- Warren Ketler (wrkttl@earthlink.net), February 14, 2001.

Hard to pin blame for California power plant shutdowns Wednesday February 14, 3:22 PM EST By David Howard Sinkman

NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - However history judges California's electricity crisis, currently it looks like a whodunit with an illusive villain behind the sporadic power cuts plaguing the richest U.S. state the past two months.

Consumer advocates and some politicians accuse the utilities, many of them out-of-state, of manipulating the newly deregulated power market by shutting down power plants for maintenance in order to drive up prices.

The power producers vehemently deny these accusations, saying that the fault lies with old plants driven past breaking point by energy- hungry California. The plants have had to be taken out for urgent maintenance, the companies argue.

Given these entrenched positions and a lack of public information, finding out what has really been going on is far from easy, analysts and consultants say.

"It is impossible to determine whether a declared forced outage occurs because the plant is actually unable to operate or because this action increased the firms' profits," said Stanford University Economics Professor Frank Wolak, a member of California's market- monitoring Independent System Operator (ISO).

Certainly, figures show that power producers have taken down more of California's capacity to produce electricity in the past year than in the previous 12 months.

In August, for example, 3,391 megawatts of capacity was out of service in the most populous U.S. state, a 461 percent increase from the previous August. Wholesale prices have spiked as well, with the value of electricity sold in California in 2000 almost quadrupling to $27.97 billion from $7.43 billion in 1999.

And, consumer groups point out, California was able to meet demand of 45,000 megawatts last summer, but now, in the low-demand winter months, the state is suffering from rolling blackouts even though demand is less than 30,000 megawatts.

Up to 13,000 megawatts of Californian capacity was off-line in January for undisclosed reasons, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said.

Plant maintenance typically is carried out in the winter because that is when demand is lowest. Some plant outages, such as at certain units of Duke's Moss Landing plant, are linked to extensive upgrades required to meet strict emission standards.

NO EVIDENCE OF MANIPULATION

The Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) says there is no evidence of manipulation by the producers. It reported Feb. 1 that plant outages in California beginning on Dec. 13 were due to maintenance problems at old plants that were run too hard in the summer.

But, critics note, FERC conducted 60 percent of its audits of California power plant outages over the telephone using questionnaires. "FERC's inspection was like a principal calling a kid who is cutting school and asking if he is sick," said Mindy Spatt, media director of The Utiliti├Á├║├║:├┐roup.

Under political pressure, ISO, the traffic controller for 75 percent of the s├╝├║├║├żasing daily data on the size of plant outages on Jan. 25, but not the reason why.

"Because details on why these plants???the power shortages has also increased in recent weeks because some power producers have been reluctant to sell electricity to California's two main utilities, Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International (EIX), and PG&E Corp. (PCG), amid fears that they will not be able to pay for it.

http://money.iwon.com/jsp/nw/nwdt_rt.jsp?section=news&news_id=reu- n12569780&feed=reu&date=20010214&cat=INDUSTRY

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 14, 2001.



Good work, Martin. "Hard to pin blame for California..." has some food for thought. Did you note the last three paragraphs have some garbles, but don't think too important. Will have some comments tomorrow. Just got the tail end of the California storm here in Arridzona.

-- Warren Ketler (wrkttl@earthlink.net), February 14, 2001.

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