Daniel Powell 11:30 a.m., Jan. 21
Conflicting predictions on summer sans San Onofre
Differing analyses of a new report from the California Independent Systems Operator (ISO), which controls the state’s energy grid, paint a conflicting picture of the challenges the hot summer months will bring Southern California electricity customers facing a second straight year without the 2.2 megawatts formerly produced by San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Energy analyst Stephen Schork says the region faces “a potentially very scary summer,” according to San Onofre operator Southern California Edison, who has thus far unsuccessfully petitioned to restart one of the plant’s twin nuclear generators under partial load. Schork points out that in addition to the continued nuclear shutdown, low snowpack in the mountains will lead to reduced hydroelectric generation, and that the dry winter increases the possibility of wildfires that could wreak havoc on the grid if any major transmission lines go down.
The ISO, however, seems to downplay the threat, saying that meeting the electricity needs of San Diego and Orange County will be “marginally more challenging.” While the entity predicts a 2.3 percent growth in demand over last year, the surplus production in energy is not expected to drop below 6 percent – a fall below 3 percent surplus could trigger outages in some areas, but a 20 percent surplus is closer to historical norms.
Last year, local engineer Bill Powers published a report finding a continuous power surplus despite the San Onofre shutdown. Excess power was available, Powers found, even when local utilities were calling for “flex alerts” encouraging consumers to take steps to limit their energy consumption. The flex alert program is expected to be revived again in 2013, and given the additional challenges could prove to be more important than in years past.