San Diego’s power supply landscape is sharply different than it was just a few years ago.
The San Onofre nuclear plant is shut down, the Sunrise Powerlink is running and the recovering economy is hungry for power. SDG&E President and Chief Operating Officer Steven Davis said challenges are looming.
“We anticipate in our planning for a peak demand, under normal conditions to be 4,800 megawatts. And 5,300 megawatts under extreme weather conditions,” Davis said.
The projected peak is just over 100 megawatts more than the previous record set in 2010. Davis says the jump in demand is from normal economic growth.
“Power grid managers think they have the capacity to be able to deal with the demand this summer. But there are some concerns. If things get hot, or there’s a fire, it could put stress on the equipment,” Davis said.
The California Energy Commission’s Bob Weisenmiller says there’s a pretty good chance that there will be stress this summer.
“San Ononfre was a huge resource here. Without that we’ve gotten through the last couple of summers, as you know. However, we’ve had relatively mild weather for the last two summers. Last year was somewhat cooler than average and the summer before was more or less average,” Weisenmiller said.
Weisenmiller says he’s confident this will be a hotter than average summer, and that not only increases power demand, but it raises the risk of wildfires. Flames could interrupt the flow of electricity from certain regions and destabilize the gird.
San Diego Gas and Electric officials are counting on their customers to help out when the mercury rises. SDG&E’s Caroline Winn says the utility liked the response during an unexpected May hot spell. But she also knows a long run of hot weather presents problems.
“When there’s 100 degree temperatures for multiple days, the first couple of days our customers are very good at conserving. You get into day three or day four they are kind of tired of conserving so those are the days that we really have to watch out for,” Winn said.
Winn says if customers are successful in easing demand for power during peak use days, utility officials won’t have to make tough choices that could result in the lights going out for some customers.