Report: SoCalGas facilities below 40% standard level, sparking fears of summer shortfalls

Dive Brief:

  • Southern California Gas President and CEO Bret Lane has warned several state agencies that peak reliability may be an issue this summer and winter if extreme weather stresses the utility's grid and the Aliso Canyon storage facility remains closed, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. 
  • The utility's stance is at odds with a recent report from EES Consulting, prepared for Los Angeles County, which concluded the state's electric reliability can be maintained without the Aliso Canyon storage facility.
  • In 2015, a leak at the facility was discovered at the Aliso Canyon facility, forcing the evacuation of nearly 6,000 residents and leading to emergency orders to help maintain power reliability in the region. In January, state regulators said the facility was safe to reopen at roughly a third of its original size, but the utility is not yet allowed to inject gas into the wells.

Dive Insight:

The Los Angeles Daily News reports SoCalGas storage facilities in Santa Barbara, Valencia, and Playa del Rey have far less gas than normalabout 40% below standard levels, leading the utility to sound alarms as it fights to reopen the Aliso Canyon facility.

CEO Lane sent a letter to the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Independent System Operator, warning that the state's ability to avoid outages was in part due to luck.

“For the upcoming summer and winter seasons, California cannot rely on luck, and energy reliability should not depend upon continually mild weather conditions," Lane wrote, according to the news outlet. "This is particularly true now, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting a 60 to 70 percent chance above normal temperatures throughout California this summer.”

The letter comes ahead of a May 22 workshop where the agencies and grid operator will examine summer preparedness and hear a presentation from the utility.

Pulling Aliso Canyon offline had a significant impact on California's energy mix last year: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gas generation was off about 20% during June, July and August. However, load was largely met by carbon-free sources and power importsthe state has rushed out battery storage projects to avoid energy shortages—leading to arguments over whether or not the facility is unnecessary. 

“There is sufficient time to aggressively implement demand-side mitigation measures that will eliminate the need to withdraw gas from Aliso Canyon during the next winter season,” the EES study concluded.

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Filed Under: Generation
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