Southern California faces potential lack of summer power supply

The manager of the state's electric grid expects current power supplies to meet summer needs for keeping the lights and air conditioning running, except in Southern California, where power plants might lack the needed natural gas.

Steve Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, urged Southern Californians to heed calls to conserve energy during periods of high demand because power companies will not be able to rely on the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility to fuel their plants.

Aliso Canyon, operated by Southern California Gas Co., was taken offline after one of the company's 115 wells leaked, forcing thousands of residents in the nearby Porter Ranch community from their homes. The utility sealed the leak and closed the well in February, but it can't replenish natural gas supply in the storage facility until it is deemed safe.

Without Aliso Canyon, Berberich's agency and state regulators worry that high electric demand could require more natural gas for the power plants than Southern California Gas can supply.

“The natural gas issues facing Southern California this summer will require deft management, particularly during hot days when power plants fueled by natural gas are needed to meet peak demand,” Berberich said. “The ISO has moved quickly to put into place new mechanisms to reduce the impact of gas curtailments on electric reliability. We are also asking consumers to respond to calls for energy conservation on days we call a Flex Alert.”

The state's ability to generate electricity increased almost 4% over last summer, with 54,459 megawatts available statewide, the agency said. The all-time highest summer peak demand was in July 2006, when electricity consumption reached 50,270 megawatts.

Other than the potential impact on Southern Californians because of the troubled Aliso Canyon facility, the agency called the statewide outlook "positive for the summer."

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