Will California's power supply dry up this summer?

Dive Brief:

  • New solar and natural gas-fired generation will help ensure California's electricity supply doesn't suffer during this summer's drought, according to an assessment from the California ISO.
  • The state relies on getting much of its power from hydro-electric generation, but a severe drought is expected to cut hydro by 1370 MW under "normal" conditions. The state would lose 1,669 MW of hydro in "extreme" conditions. A further 1150 MW of "thermal" generation is also at risk as the units need water to run.
  • Demand is expected to peak this summer at about 47,351 MW. With the extra generation coming online this summer -- 3243 MW by June 1 -- the grid will have a total of 56,550 MW in capacity at its disposal. 

Dive Insight:

California, which consumes more electricity than any other state except Texas, has been hit with a succession of droughts and forest fires. On top of the weather, California's suppliers are still trying to deal with the loss of the San Onofre nuclear plant. The plant's shutdown took 2,250 MW of capacity out of the state's power supply.

The loss of San Onofre will make the Southern Orange and San Diego areas, which were once powered by the controversial nuclear plant, the "focus of summer grid operations," according to the ISO, as heat waves, unplanned outages and wildfires could further imperil the power supply.

Additionally, “water supplies to thermal generation will likely be of a greater concern in 2015 if the current drought continues,” the California ISO said. The ISO said it would "work with state and local agencies to monitor these facilities through the summer" to help power producers maintain a steady and reliable supply.‚Äč

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