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SDGE Scrambles for Power During Summer Nuke Outage

A San Diego Gas & Electric official Tuesday presents the solutions that the company and Southern California Edison are working on in light of the extended San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown.

San Diego Gas & Electric is partnering with Southern California Edison to attempt to keep the lights on this summer in the absence of the 2,200 megwatts from the temporarily inactive San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

that led to the discovery of , officials said this month the nuclear plant 

In the mean time, Duane Cave, an SDG&E spokesman, presented some potential solutions to the San Clemente City Council Tuesday that the company will use to try to keep the lights on—he hopes.

"This will be the first summer [since the plant was built] we've ever gone without having San Onofre operating during summer," Cave said. "Customers must be made aware of the need to conserve during warm days more than ever before."

The ISO is the consortium that allocates electricity among utilities throughout the state.

Residential users will get a discount on their bill if they use less power between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and they can sign up to receive notifications about when it's most important to conserve, Cave said.

Also, certain big commercial clients pay a special low electricity rate in return for an obligation to the utility that they'll cut power first if a shortage is imminent, Cave said.

But technicians, engineers and contractors are working on the supply side, too, Cave said.

Without the San Onofre nuclear plant, the California Independent System Operator figures there's a capacity in the area of 48,091 megawatts, Cave said.

(One megawatt can power about 650 single-family homes.)

The ISO estimates demand, during a normal summer, to reach only 46,352 megawatts—if we're lucky.

"We're hoping for another mild one," Cave said about the summer.

Some bad news: The snowpack in the mountains this year is anemic, so the ISO is expecting at least 1,100 fewer megawatts from hydroelectric power this year.

SoCal Edison is working on the Barre-Ellis transmission line project, which it hopes to finish soon. The line stretches 13 miles between the Barre and Ellis substations, and its entire length lies within Orange County, according to a California Public Utilities Commission filing. The line will help import more power to the South OC/North San Diego grid, where officials say there is the most danger of losing power during heat waves.

Furthermore, SDG&E's Sunrise Powerlink, the last tower of which was set June 4, is capable of piping in up to 1,000 megawatts, but engineers figure it can only handle about 500 this summer as it's ramped up into service, Cave said. The line leads 117 miles east through San Diego, roughly along the Mexican border and down into the Imperial Valley substation.

SDG&E—which in addition to San Diego County, powers all or part of seven cities in South Orange County—operates several gas-fired plants through west San Diego County, which will pump voltage into the grid. Also, two retired gas plant units in Huntington Beach will come online, working to keep the grid's voltage up to necessary levels.

The Encina Power Plant in Encinitas juices the grid with 965 megawatts, while plants in Palomar and Otay Mesa both produce 500 megawatts, Cave said Tuesday.

To make up any potential shortfalls, SDG&E is banking on importing more power and is working through operational studies to figure out other sources for the summer before temperatures soar in July and August.

Marc Schroeder June 13, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I would much rather live without AC as all did until 110 years ago than die or live financially ruined when SONGS starts to leak. Whether it happens from earthquake, tidal wave, terrorism, employee error or equipment malfunction? Sooner or later, it will leak and when it does, we can all say goodbye to life as we know it. Lets all do whatever we can to let our elected officials know it is past time to shut it down.
Nom de Plume June 14, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Marc, That's a rather extreme over-reaction. The possibility of ANY "leak" significantly more than the background radiation is quite small; the chances of a major radioactivity release from San Onofre are infinitesimal. "Life as we know it" will continue (whether you like it or not.) You've been watching too much late night TV!
ms.sc. June 14, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Rolling black outs have been happening around the Nation for years. It's actually a standard Power/Process Plant activity. I wouldn't be too worried. SONGS will not be a major factor for power. Although employment from the plant closing will be affected, plant closure will maintain employment due to proper plant dismantlement.
David B Secor June 17, 2012 at 05:49 AM
Had not SDG&E been working day and night for years to impede solar in this county, we would not be facing this phony "crisis" for which SDG&E itself is responsible. San Onofre will not reopen, and local government should begin immediately forming it's own energy program similar to that already in operation, and saving ratepayers, in Marin County. SDG&E's days of monopoly are numbered. It will take time, but not an awfully long time. SDG&E and it's unindicted co-conspirators in government will answer to the people with the real power, the PEOPLE. They have finally had enough.
Donna Gilmore August 09, 2012 at 05:56 PM
There is no crisis. Steve Berberich, CEO of the grid operator for our California’s electric transmission system, said “Fortunately, there are resource options available to help mitigate reliability risks." California has a 40% surplus of energy without San Onofre (per CPUC). California is not and should not be one power plant away from blackouts. The grid operator is doing their job (as they should be) to ensure we don't have blackouts caused by San Onofre being offline. Why should we live with the risks from this nuclear plant for energy we don't need? San Onofre continues to have the worst safety record of any plant in the USA. See NRC Safety Allegations Chart at http://sanonofresafety.org/ They also have the highest rate of retaliation against employees who report safety allegations (complaints) to the NRC. They told us their redesigned steam generators were the best technology available and would last at least 40 years, but instead leaked radiation after less than one year and are showing signs of unprecedented premature wear (per NRC). Tell the Governor and the California Public Utilities Commission to keep San Onofre shut down. It is unreliable and too expensive. Stop spending our ratepayer money for energy we don't need. We take all the risks and Edison makes millions every day this plant is running. Expenses are growing trying to patch up these defective steam generators. Enough is enough!

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