SDG&E says customers may need to step up in the absence of SONGS

With the 2,200-MW San Onofre nuclear plant shut and headed for retirement, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) on June 11 reminded customers that, while adequate electricity supplies are lined up to meet their needs, conservation and demand response will still be vital during extremely hot weather or an unplanned power plant outage or transmission line emergency.

On June 7, Southern California Edison (SCE), the majority owner and operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), announced plans to permanently retire SONGS Units 2 and 3. SDG&E said it had already made plans to meet customers’ energy needs safely and reliably this summer for the second straight summer without SONGS. Due to the fact that SONGS will be offline permanently, the regional electric resource situation will face some “challenges,” the utility added.

“While SDG&E has lined up the electric resources necessary to supply our customers with enough power this summer, in the event of an extended heat wave, we expect that we will need to ask customers to reduce their energy use,” said Jessie Knight Jr., SDG&E’s chairman and CEO. “Helping our customers use less energy is in everyone’s best interest to save money, to protect the environment, and to ensure future generations have access to much needed energy supply. SDG&E encourages customers to use energy wisely and to conserve whenever they can to help keep energy bills as low as possible, especially as the warmer summer months approach.”

In 2012, SDG&E completed the Sunrise Powerlink transmission project, which has greatly increased reliability, allowed renewable development in Imperial Valley to flourish and increased Southern California’s ability to import power. In addition, SDG&E said it has completed several transmission upgrade projects that will strengthen the system and assist in voltage support in the absence of SONGS.

The California Independent System Operator, responsible for managing the bulk of the state’s power grid, recently issued its 2013 Summer Assessment confirming adequate supplies for most of California. The assessment identified local reliability concerns for southern Orange and San Diego Counties during extensive heat waves as a result of the absence of power from San Onofre.

New generation helps bolster the grid situation

An estimated 51,068 MW of power plant capacity should be available this summer within the California ISO grid, which includes 2,502 MW of new generation that came online between June 1, 2012, and April 1, 2013. An additional 891 MW was energized as of June. The new power supply sources are comprised of 24% wind and solar power.

The ISO is also continuing demand response and conservation awareness, and is asking consumers to watch for the Flex Alert conservation campaign on TV and radio again this summer, which will alert customers when to conserve electricity.

Last year, SDG&E announced the launch of Reduce Your Use rewards, a demand-response program for SDG&E’s residential customers who are eligible to earn a bill credit for using less electricity on specific days. These Reduce Your Use days may be called on hot summer days when energy demand is high.

“At SDG&E, we are working hard to provide customers with smart energy solutions to reduce their energy and start saving money on energy bills today,” said Michael Niggli, SDG&E’s president and chief operating officer.

SDG&E is also working with the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that customers understand the importance of conserving energy and have access to the tools that will help reduce strain on the grid and lower their bills.

“As summer approaches, we thank all customers who are participating in the state’s demand response and conservation programs, which help to relieve stress on the electricity system,” said Commissioner Catherine Sandoval of the California Public Utilities Commission. “I am pleased that both traditional and new approaches to reach diverse communities, and consideration of language and digital access needs, are being utilized with good success.”

SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and more than 860,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.