Calif. caves in to heat, humidity : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Calif. caves in to heat, humidity Tuesday, 3 July 2001 16:58 (ET)

Calif. caves in to heat, humidity By HIL ANDERSON, UPI Chief Energy Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, July 3 (UPI) -- Just two days after Gov. Gray Davis boasted that Californians had slashed their electricity consumption by 12 percent, a wave of hot, muggy summer weather pushed the state's power supply to the brink.

A Stage Two power alert was issued shortly before noon Tuesday as inland temperatures headed into the 90s toward the 100-degree mark while coastal temperatures topped 80.

Peak demand during the late afternoon hours was expected to top 41,000 megawatts (MW) at which time the amount of power expected to be available will be barely enough to meet demand, according to projections from the California Independent System Operator (ISO).

"Northern California's appetite for power is 1,000 MW over forecast due to temperatures that are hotter and more humid than meteorologists predicted,"the ISO said in an advisory. "Because the heat wave is regional in nature,levels of imported power have decreased as other states, especially those in the Southwest, also cope with high demand for power."

Tuesday was the second consecutive day in which a Stage Two alert has been called after more than a month of fairly normal operations on the ISO-controlled grid.

On Sunday, Davis had announced that the state had reduced its electricity consumption in June by an impressive 12 percent.

"Californians are doing a phenomenal job of conserving energy," Davis said. "I asked Californians to reduce electricity usage by 10 percent and they have come through big time."

The weather in June, however, was relatively benign compared to the sultry heat wave that began over the weekend over both the northern and southern halves of the state. Peak demand topped 40,000 MW 10 times in June and has already gone above that level twice in July after only three days into the month.

The heat and humidity have also spread across the state line into Arizona and Nevada, where the Las Vegas area experienced a 45-minute rolling blackout on Monday. Around 10,000 residents were left without air conditioning by the outage, but Nevada Power Co. said in a statement that the situation was handled promptly.

"While inconvenient for some customers, this situation served as a fire drill to signify that conservation does matter," said Nevada Power spokesman Paul Heagen. "Large resorts and commercial and industrial customers were approached by the company to shed load, and they collectively shed 50 MW. These customers effectively ended our condition red and avoided additional outages."

While a Stage Two alert is called when California's power reserves fall below 5 percent of total demand, it also triggers a new price-control mechanism that is aimed at limiting the price spikes on the wholesale spot market where the state begins to scrape together extra megawatts.

The power industry has bridled at any kind of price ceiling on their wares, and the Los Angeles Times reported that confusion over just what the eventual price would be for the electricity prompted at least five power sellers to back out of the California market on Monday.

"Since they don't know what they are going to get paid, they are not going to take the risk and are not going to sell the energy," Ray Hart, deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources, told the Times.

It remains to be seen if this unwillingness by some brokers to sell power to California will continue or exacerbate the need for blackouts. -- Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 03, 2001


It was a disgusting 116 yesterday in Phoenix and because of my electric plan I suffer between the hours of 1 pm and 8 pm by turning off the AC. At any other time it is dirt cheap to operate. Salt River Project, my electric provider is offering a $250 credit towards the purchase of a new, energy efficient heat pump/air conditioner. My AC is probably ancient and very inefficient. Californians have made an effort at conserving by swapping out lights bulbs and installing programmable thermostats but I want to go on record as saying, "if we truly wanted to mine conservation it would save more than the output of dozens and dozens of new power plants. Additionally those plant would have to consume fossil fuels thereby placing price pressures on the supply. Conservation should be our first effort always. But I guess they can't teach you common sense in school.

-- Guy Daley (, July 03, 2001.

It's not just a matter of the generators wondering how much they will be paid, but it will soon be a matter of if they will be paid. With so much of their money already tied up in Limbo this has to be a very important consideration for them.

I expect more and more suppliers will be exiting the California market as the Summer progresses.

-- Wayward (, July 04, 2001.

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