Arizona Utilities Warn California Change Could Result In Power Losses

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A group of power providers say a change prioritizing electrical demand in California would leave Arizona and other states with power shortages that could lead to blackouts amid the state’s oppressing heat.

Southwest utilities including Tucson Electric Power, Arizona Public Service and others say they’re opposed to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) plan to ensure local power delivery gets first consideration over “wheel-through” power that is sent to other states. 

Specifically, the summer readiness plan approved by California’s primary grid operator puts a lower priority on the electrical wattage sent elsewhere when the power demand is high. 

Electrical utilities in Arizona, California, and elsewhere secure the massive amounts of power needed to meet local demand by winning bids for wattage on wholesale energy auctions. Nuclear power generators, natural gas, renewable resources and others all offer up expected wattage for sale and then deliver on those contracts via interstate power line infrastructure.

In March, the CAISO board approved the first 2021 summer readiness enhancements and the “load, export and wheeling priorities proposal” on April 21. 

Power operators in neighboring states say the CAISO is “exporting to the rest of the West its reliability issues that have arisen due to a number of dynamics occurring” within California.

California experienced rolling blackouts in Aug. 2020 due to supply shortages that saw hundreds of thousands of residents without power in the sweltering heat.

In a statement, Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (SRP), Arizona Public Service (APS), Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and NV Energy (NVE) expressed their concerns with CAISO’s efforts to address their local power shortages, saying it’s unfair to market participants outside of the state.

They said the proposal is the equivalent of CAISO “exporting its reliability issues which are the result of dynamics within the CAISO BAA to the rest of the West.” 

The companies added that the proposal violates regional market principles, calling it “unjust, unreasonable, and unduly discriminatory.” 

Though California’s electric system is in a better position than it was in 2020, CAISO officials warned in their May 12 assessment they could still struggle to meet demand this summer due to low supply and a high likelihood of extreme weather. 

The change would sunset on May 31, 2022. CAISO said they would work on a longer-term solution at an earlier meeting.

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This article was published on May 19, 2021 and is reprinted with permission from The Center Square.

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