July 3, 2013 / 12:40 PM / 7 years ago

California power grid survives heat wave, nuclear outage

By Scott DiSavino
    July 3 (Reuters) - The California power grid operator passed
its first heat wave test of 2013 without the San Onofre nuclear
plant and another reactor at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant
without much trouble.
    PG&E Corp's 1,122-megawatt (MW) Unit 1 at the Diablo
Canyon nuclear plant, the biggest unit in the Golden State, shut
on June 27 before the heat wave started and returned on July 2
as the weather started to moderate.
    "California did manage to squeak by yesterday. They were
fortunate to have Diablo come on line just prior to their peak
load (Tuesday)," a power trader said.
    Generating resources in California were already below par
before Diablo Canyon 1 shut after the permanent closure in June
of the 2,150-MW San Onofre nuclear power plant.
    With the Diablo reactor down, the California ISO, which
operates the power grid for much of California and parts of
Nevada, issued a rare "flex alert" on Sunday for Monday and
Tuesday, urging customers in the northern part of the state,
primarily PG&E territory, to conserve power.
    PG&E is the biggest power company in California, serving
about 5.1 million customers in the northern and central part of
the state.
    Flex alerts notify the public of steps they can take to help
avoid potential power shortfalls. This was the ISO's second flex
alert in 2013. The grid operator issued two flex alerts in each
of 2011 and 2012 and none in 2010. 
    Other than the call for conservation on Monday and Tuesday
and instructions to power companies not to conduct unnecessary
maintenance on their generating facilities and transmission
lines, the ISO did not have to take other steps to manage power
usage during this heat wave.
    On Wednesday morning, the grid operator said conservation
was still needed but ended the flex alert.
    Other big utilities in California are Southern California
Edison, a unit of Edison International, which retired
the San Onofre reactors, and San Diego Gas and Electric, a unit
of Sempra Energy.
    Temperatures in Los Angeles, the biggest city in California,
reached 90 degrees F on Saturday, 94 on Sunday and 92 on Monday
before returning to near normal levels in the low 80s, according
to AccuWeather.com, which forecast the high in the city would
reach 80 on Wednesday.
    But temperatures in San Jose, the biggest city in northern
and central California where Diablo Canyon is located, reached
92 on Friday, 96 on Saturday, and 92 again on Monday and
Tuesday, AccuWeather.com said. The mercury is expected to reach
88 on Wednesday.
    Prices for next-day power spiked for Tuesday delivery into
the $100s per megawatt hour, which was at least a five-year
high, but returned to normal summer levels in the $60s for
Wednesday delivery.
    The ISO forecast demand for Wednesday would reach about
43,000 MW, which is well below the ISO's forecast on Tuesday for
Wednesday of 46,300 MW.
    The grid hit peaks this week of almost 45,000 MW on Monday
and was forecast to hit about 46,000 MW on Tuesday. That is
still well below the ISO's all-time record of 50,270 MW, set in
July 2006 before commercial and industrial usage was reduced
during the economic crisis.
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