NERC Predicts Lights Out in California

Despite California sunshine, this West Coast state may have to suffer through as many as 260 hours of blackouts this summer, predicts the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) in a recent report.


Despite California sunshine, this West Coast state may have to suffer through as many as 260 hours of blackouts this summer, predicts the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) in a recent report.

"California electricity users will experience rotating blackouts, much more so than last summer or this winter," stated Michehl R. Gent, NERC's president and CEO.

The Princeton, N.J.-based association also projects that California could face shortfalls of 4,500 to 5,500 megawatts during peak-demand periods each month this summer.

While California's independent system operator, the organization that oversees the electrical grid, is not anticipating quite as bleak an outlook, the agency has warned that Californians may have to deal with the risk of blackouts for as many as 34 days this summer.

On the other end of the spectrum, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Cambridge, Mass., predicted only 20 hours of summer blackouts in a report released earlier this year, but NERC claims that new generation will fall short of expectations.

"Since new generation requires a shakedown period during initial start-up, it is unlikely that all of the new generation will be on schedule and 100-percent available," says NERC's report—the 2001 Summer Assessment .

Responding to NERC's forecast, a spokesman for Governor Gray Davis' office stated that the assessment is overly pessimistic.

"We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," spokesperson Steve Maviglio, told the L.A. Times, stating that NERC has underestimated the potential of importing electricity from the Northwest.

However, the NERC's report predicts that drought conditions in the Northwest could limit the region's ability to share its hydroelectric resources.

"We expect that utilities in the Pacific Northwest will be able to serve all of their firm demands this summer, but they will not have electricity available to export to California and elsewhere," said Gent.

The report, available at , also warns that New England, New York City and Texas may also be vulnerable to electrical shortages this summer.

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