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'06 a good year for power grid
System was reliable, cheaper despite July heat wave, ISO says.
By Edie Lau - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, February 27, 2007
California's electrical grid was more reliable and cost less to maintain last year despite the record-breaking July heat wave, the state Independent System Operator reported Monday.
"We have achieved the highest reliability performance ever of the ISO since the beginning," said Yakout Mansour, president and CEO of the corporation, which has managed most of the state's electrical transmission system since 1998.
At the same time, the not-for-profit agency was able to reduce expenses -- related to solving power-grid bottlenecks -- by 29 percent, to $477 million. The ISO spent $669 million in 2005. The cost of maintaining reliability was even higher in 2004, at $1.1 billion.
Grid reliability has been an ongoing concern since the attempt to deregulate the electricity market resulted in chaos and rolling blackouts in 2001.
ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle said one key reason for grid instability is congestion -- more demand for electrons than the lines can carry -- a problem the state is addressing.
"We're adding power lines, which is like adding lanes to a freeway," McCorkle said. "We're actually getting steel in the ground in record time, and that added transmission is allowing us to move megawatts around the state much more efficiently."
She said more than $6 billion in new transmission capacity has been built in California since 1998, reflecting a mixture of public and private investments.
Mansour said the ISO had its best year yet, as measured by the Western Electric Coordinating Council, which promotes power grid reliability in 14 Western states and British Columbia. McCorkle said the ISO outperformed six major operating standards set by the council.
Agency officials were particularly pleased that the high marks were for the same year in which California set an all-time record for peak power use.
Demand hit 50,270 megawatts on July 24 amid a blistering statewide heat wave that lasted the better part of two weeks. In Sacramento, the mercury reached 100 or above on 11 consecutive days.
And yet, Mansour said, "We had no Stage III emergencies of any kind; no rotating blackouts."
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