After Aliso Canyon methane leak, California natural gas generation down 20%
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration has published an analysis of California's energy mix this summer, noting gas generation was off about 20% during June, July and August, but was replaced largely by carbon-free sources and power imports.
- That shift persisted as the state dealt with warm temperatures which drove the overall level of electricity consumption was 2% higher, compared to 2015.
- Utility-scale renewables grew the most, the EIA noted, increasing 1.4 GW between June 2015 and June 2016, with solar and wind combined totaling 26% of the state's energy mix. The shift in generation comes as California grapples with potential generation shortfalls from a gas leak at Southern California Gas' Aliso Canyon storage facility.
The Aliso Canyon leak put California in a tough spot when it was discovered in October that the Sempra-owned facility was at less than one-fifth of its capacity. The state took steps to ensure it had significant power supplies, pushing utilities to quickly embrace storage and bolster demand response programs while leaning heavily on renewables. New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the plan was largely a success.
According to data from the California ISO, "the addition of new generating capacity has also contributed to the change in generation mix," EIA said. CAISO indicated that non-hydro renewables, mainly solar and wind, made up 26% of capacity in June 2016. Utility-scale solar has shown the most growth in the grid operator's territory, increasing by 1.4 GW, or 27%, between June 2015 and June 2016.
"This increase in utility-scale solar capacity has reduced the need for summer thermal generation in CAISO, especially during the daylight hours," EIA said. The state has also added a "significant amount" of distributed solar PV capacity, with EIA's latest analysis showing how distributed solar PV increased from 2.8 GW in June 2015 to 3.8 GW in June 2016.
In April, it was revealed California customers were at danger of up to two weeks of blackouts stemming from constrained gas supplies. The Aliso Canyon facility can store up to 86 billion cubic feet gas, and it took SoCal Gas almost four months to plug the lead. When the issue was finally resolved, Aliso Canyon was down to 15 BC of gas, with the state placing a moratorium on further injections.
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