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Cal-ISO expects mild summer, blackouts unlikely

April 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Good news from the people in charge of California's power grid. They're predicting a mild summer, and only a slight increase in energy consumption statewide.

The California Independent System Operator manages 80 percent of the state's power grid. It's their job to keep the lights on for 30 million residents and avoid a repeat of those famous rolling blackouts 10 years ago.

The chances of that happening are next to nothing this year.

"We look good for the summer," said Cal-ISO Chief Operating Officer Steve Berberich. "We don't expect any problems. In fact, our analysis shows 1 percent or less chance of any kind of load blackouts."

Cal-ISO expects a mild summer and thanks to a very wet winter, which saw snowpacks reaching 160 percent above average, there will be plenty of hydro-electricity. California typically gets 12 percent of its power from hydro.

"We are getting a lot of hydro now," said Berberich. "And the good news for us is we expect to get hydro well into the summer."

Also helping avoid blackouts is Cal-ISO's new high tech center. Since renewable energy is becoming a bigger chunk of the state's power portfolio, it's important for grid managers to see when weather isn't cooperating.

If there's no breeze for the wind turbines or sun for the solar panels, they can easily direct traditional power to those areas.

Because Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law mandating that California start getting one-third of its energy through alternative sources, an updated grid is all the more important.

"We want to get 40 percent or more," said California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller. "And as we do that, that's going to have implications on our existing fleet, and we're going to replace some of those older plants."

But a high-tech grid and wet winter are no guarantee things will go smoothly this summer. Predications don't always come true. There's always the chance of a fire or earthquake blowing out a transmission line, or having a heat wave that increases demand.