- California's drought has left the state's hydroelectric producers struggling, and several have asked federal regulators to loosen restrictions on water use in order to continue producing electricity.
- California declared a drought in January 2014, but since then the situation has worsened, with some reservoirs touching historic lows.
- U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said there is "certainly a risk" of power brownouts in the region over the summer, Reuters reported.
California has been in a drought for four years now, with snowpack at about 3% of typical conditions and the largest water reservoirs filled to just 66% of average conditions, Argus reports. That's why power producers have begun asking FERC to waive specifications on reservoir levels and river flows.
Pacific Gas & Electric requested a variance last week at its 206-MW Mokelumne plant, according to Argus. The utility said snowpack was at its lowest in almost 100 years and required the utility to reduce water flows. The Merced Irrigation District and El Dorado Irrigation District asked for similar waivers.
The situation has gotten so bad that Energy Secretary Moniz said there is "certainly a risk" that California could face brownouts this summer. "Hydro power is a renewable," he said, "but if you look historically, there is actually quite a bit of fluctuation from year to year, depending upon what happens over the winter."
According to a report released last month by the Pacific Institute, California's drought has cost electricity consumers more than $1 billion over a three year period as the state was forced to shift away from hydro and rely more heavily on natural gas.