San Diego Gas & Electric: Summer 2014 capacity looks tight, but adequate

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) said June 26 that it is in good shape for the summer peak air conditioning demand season, despite the retirement last year of the San Onofre nuclear plant.

Summer began early this year with heat waves beginning in May, and SDG&E customers helped do their part to keep the electric grid running smoothly by responding to calls for conservation during the wildfires in the northern part of San Diego County, the utility noted. With the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) permanently offline and the potential for summer heat waves or wildfires, Southern California may face another tight summer for electric resources. 

“Providing safe and reliable energy is a top priority at SDG&E and is a responsibility that we take very seriously,” said Steven Davis, SDG&E president and chief operating officer. “SDG&E is prepared to meet this summer’s energy demand but we expect that there will be days when we will need help from customers through conservation and demand response and we appreciate all efforts by our customers so far this year to help keep the electric system running smoothly during the recent wildfires.”

The Sunrise Powerlink continues to increase reliability and improve Southern California’s ability to import power, particularly from new renewable generation projects in the Imperial Valley. SDG&E has increased the reliability of the local grid over the past year with several major transmission system enhancements as well as continuing to coordinate with the California Independent System Operator (ISO) and Southern California Edison on contingency plans for adequate electricity resources for customers throughout Southern California without SONGS in operation.

“While we have enough supply to get us through the most extreme weather conditions, things we can’t predict, such as wildfires impacting transmission lines, can still create reliability challenges in Southern California — especially as we are still reinforcing the San Diego and Orange County grids after the early retirement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,” said Steve Berberich, ISO president and CEO.

The California ISO recently issued its 2014 Summer Assessment, which predicts an adequate supply of electricity for meeting summer peak conditions across the state despite well below average hydroelectric supply. The assessment identified local reliability concerns focused on southern Orange and San Diego counties during extensive heat waves but reliability levels are still within operating standards.

There is an estimate of 54,171 MW of power plant capacity available this summer within the ISO grid, including new generation of 3,644 MW and an additional 117 MW expected to come online by July 4. About 61% of the new power supply comes from solar power with about 7% from other renewables.

“For the past two summers, which have experienced relatively mild temperatures, active collaboration between California’s energy agencies, SDG&E, Southern California Edison and the California Independent System Operator has ensured adequate electricity supply for the SONGS impacted area,” said Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission.

Southern California Edison announced in June 2013 that it will permanently retire Units 2 and 3 of its San Onofre nuclear plant, which had a combined capacity of about 2,200 MW. Both SONGS units had at that point been shut down since January 2012 due to mechanical problems. San Onofre is jointly owned by SCE (78%), San Diego Gas & Electric (20%) and the city of Riverside (2%).

SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides safe and reliable energy service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and 861,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The utility’s area spans 4,100 square miles. 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.