I know you have heard it, that California is currently facing rolling
blackout possibilities. The article below articulates the west coast
situation quite well. It is interesting to note that the northwest is
facing reduced hydropower, due to low water levels, which impacts
California. DOE chief Bill Richardson is fixing to get involved.
California imports electrical power big time and some of its utilities are
facing bankruptcy. Remember that Texas differs from California, as Texas
produces most if not all of its electricity.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carolyn Chase" <cdchase@...>
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2000 4:45 PM
Subject: SFC: Energy chief moves to avert California blackouts
www.sfgate.com Return to regular view
Energy chief moves to avert California blackouts
STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2000
©2000 Associated Press
(12-13) 13:46 PST SACRAMENTO (AP) -- U.S. Energy Secretary Bill
Richardson said Wednesday he
would force power generators to sell electricity to California
to prevent rolling blackouts.
The announcement came as California power regulators warned of
the likelihood of a Stage Three power
alert with rotating blackouts Wednesday afternoon due to trouble
buying electricity from the Northwest.
About a dozen suppliers were demanding cash before selling power
to California due to concerns about
the utilities' solvency, said Kellan Fluckiger, chief operating
officer of the Independent System Operator,
keeper of the state's electrical grid.
California's two largest utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric and
Southern California Edison, are near
bankruptcy due to skyrocketing wholesale power costs, Gov. Gray
Davis and Sen. Dianne Feinstein,
D-Calif., said at a Washington, D.C., news conference with Richardson.
Richardson said he was using emergency powers to force
wholesalers to sell power to California at a
price he deemed fair. He said he would also request that two
large Pacific Northwest power generating
associations generate more power to send to California.
Davis and Feinstein also asked federal regulators to set a
regional price cap on wholesale electricity to
prevent the high prices that have plagued California. On Friday,
the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission lifted price caps in California.
Record wholesale power prices followed, and PG&E warned it was
in financial danger.
``The credit limits of utilities and what markets are willing to
sell us have been reached and surpassed in
many cases,'' Fluckiger said. ``There are questions about
utility solvency. That has come to a head
He said officials may have to interrupt power to about a million
customers Wednesday afternoon and then
increase the blackouts to cover three million or four million in
late afternoon and early evening, when
people come home from work and power demand hits a peak.
Steve Hansen, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, whose
territory includes metropolitan Los
Angeles but not the city, said the utility had not ordered
blackouts by early afternoon.
``We have heard that it may not be as bad as we thought here,''
he said. ``We're waiting for some kind of
official word from the ISO or somebody.''
An unprecedented Stage Three emergency was issued last Thursday,
meaning reserves had fallen below
1 1/2 percent. In that case, the state fended off the threat of
rolling outages by turning off two
power-sucking water pumps on the Delta.
``California is heavily import-dependent and had been for 20
years. This is a West-wide problem,''
Blackouts, if used, would probably last about an hour to 90
minutes and occur mostly in Northern
California due to transmission limitations there, Fluckiger said.
``It's a fairly bleak picture,'' he said, adding that the
chances of blackouts were better than 50-50. ``This
thing will not change unless something is done to alleviate the
Contributing to the problem was a shortage of water to power
hydroelectric generators in the Northwest
and California, Fluckiger said.
``We have reservoirs so low that we have people standing by them
watching the situation to make sure it
does not go below safe limits,'' he said.
Gas-fired generators could be brought on line to ease the
situation but natural gas prices are so high they
would not cover the operating costs, Fluckiger said.
``Requests have been made to operate those facilities and then
have the utilities pay for those excess gas
costs,'' Fluckiger said. ``The utilities have not been able to
do so. They have requested permission from
the PUC to be able to pass those costs through to customers.''
Utilities would decide who would face blackouts, he said. They
try to avoid areas with essential services
such as hospitals, Fluckiger said.
California's power market has been hit for months by tight
supplies and price spikes. Electricity
deregulation, cold weather and rising power costs have been
blamed for the state's most recent
California approved a phased-in deregulation of the electricity
market in 1996 to try to lower prices for
consumers through competition, but so far it has led to higher
The Northwest, heavily dependent on hydroelectric power, has
faced low water tables and had to import
electricity from California and other states.
And wholesale power costs have been soaring, due in large part
to skyrocketing prices for natural gas.
Wall Street is worried about utilities' economic health, and on
Tuesday, a consumer group urged the state
to seize and run the strapped $20 billion electricity system.
A Stage One alert was declared Wednesday morning, meaning power
reserves were below 7 percent
and all power users are asked to conserve.
Stage One and Stage Two emergencies, in which power reserves
fall below 5 percent, have become
routine this month, but last Thursday's Stage Three was the only
time the threat of blackouts loomed.
^EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press writer Bart Jansen in
Washington contributed to this report.
©2000 Associated Press
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