Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Drought Exacerbates Western Electricity Shortages

The Los Angeles Times reports that a drought afflicting the Pacific northwest has left reservoirs at low levels, threatening the amount of hydropower available for peak summer usage. Reservoir levels are down 30% from normal; generation and transmission facilities have also failed to keep up with consumption growth, which is mainly occurring in the south. As a result, Southern California will have inadequate supplies if temperatures rise very far.

The Cal ISO 2005 summer report (PDF) adds that the state has increased its generating capacity by 8,674 MW, but this is overall of little use because of the shortage of transmission facilities. In 2004, "there were several days where over 1,500 MW of generation was stranded ... due to transmission constraints." In the worst case "1-in-10" scenario (hottest year in ten), demand will outstrip capacity as much as 4.4%, or 804 MW -- about one medium-sized coal-fired power plant.

Knowledge Problem has more on this; in particular, I dig Lynne's comment that

I love that [Daniel Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee] used the word "dynamic" to describe the retail choice rate structure, and that he highlights the contrast with static, status-quo-focused politicians and regulators who think they are protecting consumers by keeping them in the 20th century and relying on information from meters that are vintage 1920s technology.
This is an ongoing problem of rates that don't reflect the underlying capital costs of electricity and energy usage generally.