Increased threat of outages in Calif. : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Tuesday, 13 February 2001 20:12 (ET)

Increased threat of outages in Calif

By HIL ANDERSON, UPI Chief Energy Correspondent

Fair use for educational purposes only!

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Cold weather across the West pushed California even closer to the brink of rolling blackouts Tuesday and prompted the release of more water from the hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River.

California power officials issued a plea for increased electricity conservation due to a higher level of generators being off-line due to mechanical problems, and warned that rolling blackouts appeared likely in Northern California as the evening peak demand period approached.

"When we have a cold snap, we can definitely see demand rise," said Patrick Dorrinson, spokesman for the California Independent System Operator. "When it's stormy and dark all day, you probably are going to be using more lights."

Dorrinson said that the agency was hurriedly trying to nail down enough power to meet the expected peak demand of 31,340 megawatts and that there was cautious optimism that additional supplies plus increased conservation would allow the state to make it through the day.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company, however, was contacted earlier in the day to see if any of their major commercial customers would be willing to cut their power use.

"We would be imprudent if we hadn't," said Dorrinson, who stressed that it would not be known very far in advance if the outages would be needed.

"We are primarily trying to avert blackouts," he stated.

The agency, which oversees most of the state's power grid, was getting some 3,000 megawatts of electricity from the Pacific Northwest where electricity supplies have been dwindling.The Bonneville Power Administration announced Tuesday it was increasing the volume of water flowing through its hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River.

While boosting the flow helps meet cold-weather demand, it also means more water will not be available to help the spring salmon run on the river, a fact that concerns environmentalists and Native Americans who have been pushing for government to step in and preserve the salmon breeding patterns.

"We are seeking to appropriately balance the needs of fish and electricity consumers during a serious drought," said Steve Wright, acting BPA administrator. "Even so, we have employed every means available to minimize deviations from salmon guidelines this year and will continue to do so."

The use of BPA resources at a time when California is importing about 3,000 megawatts per day from the Northwest has been a sore point among lawmakers and residents who feel they are being asked to sacrifice their own needs in order to keep the lights on in California.

Washington Gov. Gary Locke told representatives of his state's rural electricity co-ops Tuesday that their organizations should continue to get first crack at BPA power supplies.

Locke also chastised the Bush administration for its refusal to institute a cap on wholesale electricity prices in the entire West.

"Unfortunately, the administration has made it clear that it does not believe that strong action is necessary," Locke opined. "That is unfortunate, because I can tell you, the administration's policy of inaction is simply not working -- and our businesses suffer, our citizens suffer and our economy suffers."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved. --

-- Swissrose (, February 14, 2001

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