Power grid managers call Stage 2 alert
SACRAMENTO – Gusty winds in Southern California were blamed for downing high-voltage lines and keeping 3,000 megawatts of imported electricity from reaching power-strapped California on Monday.
State power grid officials called a Stage 2 alert after transmission lines went down east of Los Angeles and urged consumers to conserve electricity.
A Stage 2 alert is called when electricity reserves drop below 5 percent of available power. The alert was scheduled to last until midnight.
”We’re not looking good today,” said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the grid-managing Independent System Operator. ”Suffice it to say, conservation could play a critical role.”
A Stage 2 is the second most serious alert the ISO can call. A Stage 3 alert, when reserves drop below 1.5 percent, can result in rolling blackouts, which have hit the state four times since the start of the year.
The downed transmission lines are owned by Bonneville Power Authority and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. McCorkle said the lines were expected to be repaired by Friday.
Additionally, power plants that would have produced 12,900 megawatts were down for repairs, said McCorkle. One megawatt is roughly enough power for 750 homes.
Another 3,000 megawatts from alternative energy providers who are owed more than $1 billion by two near-broke utilities were also unavailable to grid operators, she said.
The Stage 2 alert came as lawmakers considered energy conservation and power plant siting bills.
An Assembly energy committee approved six power-related bills, including two that aim to increase electricity generation with incentives for building power plants.
One bill would give cities and counties that approve large power plants additional state aid equal to 25 percent of the property tax the plant brings in.
The estimated $62.5 million in state incentives is designed to encourage local governments to allow power plant construction within their boundaries, said the author, Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn, D-Sarasota.
Another bill would give $53.25 million in incentives primarily to small power plants that can be built quickly to serve specific commercial customers. Both bills now go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.
There were no developments announced Monday in Gov. Gray Davis’ efforts to reach deals to buy 26,000 miles of transmission lines owned by the state’s three financially troubled investor-owned utilities.
Supporters say the sales would give the utilities an infusion of revenue and allow the state to upgrade the neglected power grid to ensure reliable service.
Davis announced in February that he had an ”agreement in principle” to purchase Southern California Edison’s lines for $2.7 billion. No deal has been reached with Pacific Gas & Electric or San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
While Republicans groused openly about the pace of the governor’s negotiations with the utilities, Democratic lawmakers were more generous, with several saying they could wait another week to see the final deal.
”Unfortunately, this is like a negotiation on a treaty. When it comes to us in its final form, we’ll hold hearings on it,” said Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys.
”Our strategy is a never-again policy. We want to fix it once and for all. We want to, even if it takes a few extra weeks, to understand its complexity and fix it in an intelligent way.”
Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said lawmakers had plenty to work on while they waited for the governor’s plan. But he warned that time was running out to make significant changes by summer when demand for power rises by up to 50 percent.
”No doubt there’s an urgency,” Steinberg said. ”All the numbers and speculation about this summer’s situation (show that) it’s really dependent on resolving the underlying financial crisis.”
On the Net: Keep track of power alerts at http://www.ca.iso.com
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