>Thomas Siegel


> California's Bottleneck? Path 15



>In California there are about 13 million electricity customers connected

>to just over 1,000 generating plants by a vast network of transmission

>and distribution lines. In a perfect world, power could be generated at

>any combination of power plants and delivered to all of the customers

>with no transmission limits getting in the way. Alas, we do not live in

>a perfect world. On at least two occasions this year, there was plenty

>of power to supply all of the consumers in California, but it could not

>be delivered from southern to northern California due to capacity limits

>on Path 15. As a result, firm load curtailments were ordered only in

>northern California.


>Tom Siegel will discuss the electrical transmission network in California

>and how it is impacted by the location of loads and generation. Central to

>the discussion will be Path 15, its history, the impact deregulation has had

>on its operation and its future. Tom will also be able to discuss and answer

>questions about the supply crisis and what the future may hold.


>Tom is Senior Compliance Engineer at the California ISO. In this role

>he is responsible for ensuring that participants in California's energy

>market follow the rules of the market and deliver the services that

>they are paid to provide. Tom has Bachelor of Science in Electrical

>Engineering and Master of Science degrees from Ohio University and

>over 12 years of experience at PECO Energy, PG&E and the California

>ISO. Most of his experience has been in Planning and Operating large

>transmission networks.

Tom began his talk by showing us a map of California with big blobs on it where the major electric loads are concentrated, mostly around the large population centers. Then he superimposed on this a map that showed where the electricity is generated, most being near the loads, except for some in the Sierra Nevada area, some along the coast, and as much as 20%, which is imported from other states. On top of that he superimposed a map of the transmission grid, which connects them all together. Path 15 is the line connecting northern and southern CA, running through the central valley more-or-less along I-5.

Then he explained that in the old days, the Northwest supplied hydro power for the peak loads during the day, and California returned power from "base load" plants (the ones that operate the most efficiently) during the night. Operating as a regulated monopoly, PG&E had few Path 15 problems, and those were mostly in the winter, and mostly at night, when the most power had to go north for heating in Oregon and Washington.

Starting in about 1998, when power was deregulated, California experienced a huge and unexpected boom in the electric load. Because of this, we can now have Path 15 problems in any season at any time of the day. Path 15 is a 500 KV line, and the conductors already have as much juice running down them as safe operation will allow. There is nothing that can be done quickly to change this.

In the mean time, we are experiencing something like traffic jams on the line. This is causing some power to go around by other paths, which has made blackouts in places like Boise, Idaho possible. Siegel went into some detail about how this has caused the Idaho mood towards Californians to get even worse. "They don't like California electrons any more than they like Californians" was the sound bite that rings in my head.

Since the disasters of the power crisis, some work has been done to improve relations with other utilities. There is a plan in the works to upgrade the system, adding a Los Banos-Gates line, which will take two to three years from now to be built if it is approved.

Tian Harter

For some reason, the phrase "100 years" came up a lot in this talk.