Southern California Spot Power in Surges Due to Fires

By | May 16, 2014

Spot electricity in Southern California surged as Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. utility worked to restore service following a fire that disrupted high-voltage transmissions.

On-peak, spot electricity at Southern California’s SP15 hub more than doubled to $152.73 a megawatt-hour, the highest since March 15, data compiled by Genscape Inc. at 4:11 p.m. local time yesterday show. Day-ahead power rose $2.90 to $68.91, the highest level since February.

See related story: Several San Diego Fires Ongoing, Some Evacuations Lifted

The Poinsettia fire ignited in Carlsbad yesterday morning, forcing the evacuation of 15,000 homes and threatening to cut power to a region already vulnerable to grid failures following the shutdown of Edison International’s San Onofre nuclear plant. San Diego County has been called an energy cul-de-sac because its location limits its ability to import and deliver electricity to customers.

“The situation is at this time manageable, although capacity in the area has been reduced,” Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for grid operator California Independent System Operator Corp. based in Folsom, California, said by e-mail. “Generation is adequate for San Diego area, but the situation could worsen depending on the impact to transmission lines.”

San Diego Gas and Electric LogoThe fire is affecting “major transmission infrastructure,” Hanan Eisenman, a spokesman for utility SDG&E, said by telephone from San Diego yesterday. The company has activated demand-response programs to lighten the load on its grid and asked customers to conserve their power use.

California ISO declared a transmission emergency because of the brush fires threatening San Diego’s transmission system yesterday, restricting maintenance. The grid operator forecast in a summer assessment last week that reliability in south Orange and San Diego counties would be “more challenging this summer compared to last.”

Southern California Edison evacuated 13 nonessential workers from the utility’s shuttered San Onofre plant yesterday because of brush fires at nearby Camp Pendleton and posted personnel at its southern boundary to douse vegetation.

California has had 1,351 wildfires this year, almost double the five-year average, as it faces the worst drought in more than a century, data compiled by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection through May 10 show. The blazes are 25 percent above year-earlier levels, the agency said.

— With assistance from Naureen S. Malik in New York.

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