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New ‘Demand Response Program’ To Help Prevent Blackouts

The loss of power from San Onofre will be a big hole to fill, but one that officials say should only be a problem on peak demand days this summer.

Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.
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Above: Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.

Ted Reguly of SDG&E said a new strategy - launched for the first time this year– will reduce people’s electricity bills if they use less power on those peak demand days.

Reguly said SDG&E tried this out on 3,000 households scattered around the region last year and planned to roll it out all over San Diego this year.

“With the San Onofre issue,“ he said, “it just makes the rolling out of this program even more important.”

The rebate will be 75 cents a kilowatt hour - that’s more than twice the value of a kilowatt hour, which costs between about 14 and 31 cents to use.

Customers will save an average of $3.50 a day if they conserve enough, Reguly said. Everyone with a smart meter (and that is 99 percent of customers) will see the markdown if they save on the “reduce your use” days. People who sign up – about 13,000 so far - will get alerts to let them know exactly when to power down. The eligible hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Reduce Your Use” days are likely to be the same as "Flex Alert" days. Those will be promoted by California’s Independent System Operator, or ISO, which manages the flow of power statewide.

Reguly said the goal of this program is to save 66 megawatts, about as much as a small power plant. It's not a lot compared to the 2,200 megawatts lost from San Onofre’s Units 1 and 2. SDG &E owns 20 percent of the plant and under normal circumstances, San Onofre provides about 20 percent of the region's power.

SDG&E's goal is to conserve a total of 106 megawatts per event through demand response programs. Officials say conservation and demand response programs like this one are a growing part of the nation’s energy strategy.

Here's a quote from SDG&E, "We won't call for conservation by customers unless needed - but if we do call, it will be necessary for customers to conserve."

To make up for the absence of San Onofre, SDG&E will also rely on a Huntingdon Beach gas powered plant which is capable of producing about 440 megawatts of power, and the Sunrise Powerlink which will transport between 800 and 1,000 megawatts when it is brought on line, probably later this month.

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