Offshore Wind Projects Receive Boost from Massachusetts and Biden Administration

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Industry News

California Capsule: Blackouts Roll from Oregon to Mexico

LCG, March 20, 2001The California Independent System Operator, which manages three-fourths of the state's high voltage transmission system, ordered three investor-owned utilities shortly before noon yesterday to institute rolling blackouts that ultimately interrupted service to 1.3 million customers. There could be more of the same today.

Under the order, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. began shutting off blocks of consumers for periods between 60 and 90 minutes. The blackouts were to remain in effect until 8:00 p.m. Pacific time.

It was warm today in California 77F up at the north end of the Central Valley and 85 at the south end; 79 in San Jose and Los Angeles and 84 in Riverside. It was a nice day to be outdoors, but behind the glass walls of office buildings, air conditioners were keeping things cool.

Ca-ISO officials said that between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts of power from so-called qualifying facilities were unavailable Monday. What these small plants qualify at is non-utility generators under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act which was enacted in the 1970s as the nation sought to diversify its generation resources in response to the Arab oil embargo. Many of these small plants in California are fueled by natural gas and, because the state's utilities haven't been paying their bills to the qualifying facilities, they in turn are unable to pay for fuel for their plants.

Among customers that lost service during yesterday's outages was the Public Utilities Commission, which is based in San Francisco. It is doubtful that anyone at the PUC will say again that "There is plenty of generating capacity in this state."

In Washington, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham repeated his warnings that more blackouts appeared "inevitable" for California. Speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce energy conference, Abraham said: "The failure to meet this challenge will threaten our nation's economic prosperity, compromise our national security and literally alter the way we live our lives."

President Bush said "One thing is for certain, there are no short-term fixes. The solution for our energy shortage requires long-term thinking and a plan that we'll implement that will take time to bring to fruition."

And there was more from around the Golden State.

  • James Donnell, president and chief executive of Duke Energy North America, spoke to the same group that heard Abraham. He said flatly that "There will not be enough (electric) supply to meet demand" in California this summer. He also called for an end to the witch hunt in California that has public officials looking for out-of-state price gougers to blame that state's power problems on. He called those efforts "a lot of wasted time and energy and money," saying that California's problems ran so deep that spending time pointing fingers detracts from efforts to add more generation in the state.

  • The California Energy Commission, the state agency responsible for authorizing construction of new power plants, said yesterday evening that it would hold public hearings on two proposed plants that could begin providing much needed power this summer. One of the plants, a 135 megawatt simple-cycle facility consisting of three gas turbines, would be built in Riverside County and could be on-line by June 1. The other, a 90 megawatt simple-cycle plant using two combustion turbines fueled either by gas or oil, would be built in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego and could be ready by July 31. The commission encouraged landowners, members of the general public, and interested agencies to participate in the hearings, which means that lots of people who think power plants smell bad, look bad, or otherwise diminish their qualities of life could slow things down.

  • Edison International Inc. said yesterday that there would be no dividend for its shareholders on April 30 because of financial conditions created by the state's energy crisis. In addition, the company's regulated subsidiary, SoCal Ed, has decided to defer payment of quarterly dividends on its preferred stock.

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