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Industry News

California ISO Directors Ignore Oversight Board, Buy Power

LCG, Nov. 1, 2000--The California Independent System Operator board of directors went ahead and ordered 2,000 megawatts of electricity in the form of temporary power generating units despite a letter from the state's Electricity Oversight Board asking that it not do so.

In a vote taken late Monday and reported yesterday, the directors voted 15 to 3 with four abstentions for the ISO to enter into three year contracts at a total cost not to exceed $255 million per year.

Terry Winter, chief executive of Cal-ISO, said "The cost per household is $6 a year for the new capacity."

When California's Electricity Oversight Board learned that Cal-ISO was negotiating with power generators for temporary peaking power to stave off blackouts that threaten to be a reality next summer, it wrote the ISO a letter asking it to hold off until the state Public Utility Commission could get bids from the state's three investor-owned utilities.

A spokesman for the PUC said he had no idea what the Oversight Board had in mind. The PUC is considering talking to the utilities about new generating facilities but no proceedings have been begun.

Jan Smutny-Jones, chairman of the ISO board, said on Monday that he was "troubled" by the Oversight Board's letter. "I don't think we have any time to wait," he said Monday. "I will encourage management to go forward."

Winter, who was taken by surprise by the letter, asked the Oversight Board what assurance it could provide that the utilities would be able to supply the needed power, saying he wanted an answer by noon Monday. Michael Kahn, chairman of the Oversight Board, replied that the information "was not available."

Where the generators of the 2,000 megawatts will be put will be subject to approval by the California Energy Commission, the agency that has jurisdiction over the siting of power plants.

Cal-ISO, Electricity Oversight Board, Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission. One ISO board member asked "Who is responsible for what?"

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