California Power Lines, Hydroelectric Power, and
Most power lines are run at 230 or 500 kilovolts
to keep currents and resistance heating losses down.
About 10% of generated power is lost in transmission.
California has 33,000 miles in power lines, with PG&E owning 57%, Edison
16%, San Diego G&E 6%, municipal utilities 18%, and federal 3%.
The following is from LA Times, Jan. 31.
Cables are 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch in diameter, on 150 foot high towers, and
can deliver 500 to 2,000 megawatts.
Cabling power lines is one tenth to one-third the cost of undergrounding
The cables are made from steel and aluminum, not the heavier copper.
They have been upgraded with thicker cables to carry more power and are
near their weight limits.
While the state is planning to increase power generation by 25%, it is
only increasing transmission capacity by 5%.
The main link between Southern and Northern California is Path 15 which
can carry only 3,000 megawatts. The 90 mile link runs through the
central valley from Los Banos to Coalinga. A 1,500 megawatt addition
is being planned, to transmit more power from the new plants in Kern County.
It will cost $200 million from PG&E, and take four years for completion.
The ISO maintains reliablility on 3/4 of the state's grid.
FERC regulates yearly profits on power lines to 9% of investment, compared
to 15% to 20% that utilities can make on other investments.
San Diego needs a 30 mile link to Riverside that is being locally opposed.
The Bay Area will also need a new power line by 2004.
Northern California is used to getting power from
the Pacific Northwest. However, due to a lack of rain this season
(the fourth driest year on record for the Columbia River and Snake River
regions), the Pacific Northwest has not had much hydroelectric power for
sale. Water normally saved for the summer is being used now for California
from the Columbia river dams. Normally the Pacific Northwest contributes
11% of California's power, mostly from hydroelectric.
The Pacific Northwest snowfall is only 61% of normal,
which might produce 25% less hydroelectric power this summer from this
source. Washington and Oregon get 85% of their electric power from
hydroelectric. Typically we sell them power in the winter, and they
sell us power in the early summer when the runoff is greatest.
There are nearly 700 alternate energy producers (solar,
wind, biomass and cogeneration) that produce about a third of the energy
bought by the utilities Edison, PG&E, and SDG&E. Cogeneration
plants use gas to provide heat, and also produce electricity. The
alternate generation cost is being reduced from 17 cents/kilowatt hour
to about 9 cents/kilowatt hour. However, this does not take into
account the cost of natural gas to the cogeneration plants.
The Bush plan is backing nuclear power (LA Times,
The last nuclear plant in the US was built 28 years
Many US nuclear sites were designed for four to six
reactors, but only operate two or three, so the sites already exist.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has preapproved
three designs to forgo design reviews if one of those types is proposed.
The price of nuclear fuel has declined, while natural
gas has risen and hydroelectric is limited.
The plants do not contribute to smog or to global
New pebble bed reactors with 300,000 pebbles of enriched
uranium oxide covered with graphite are cooled with helium. They
are safer as they never reach meltdown temperatures and do not require
containment domes. They have not been approved by the NRC, and one
will be tested in South Africa.
On the negative side of course are the operating
failures at Three Mile Island, with a meltdown but no significant radiation
release, and the meltdown and radiation at Chernobyl.
Yucca Mountain in Nevada has yet to be built for
spent nuclear fuel storage.
Reprocessing of fuel has turned out to be risky for
contamination, and a possible terrorist threat.
One half of California's electrical energy comes
from natural gas. The spot cost of natural gas has risen dramatically
because the two pipelines into Southern California from the two the natural
gas fields in Texas have a limited capacity.
Interstate natural gas lines can deliver 7 billion
cubic feet a day (Bcf/d) to California, while the pipelines in the state
can carry 6.7 Bcf/d.
Previously, the alternate energy sources were priced
at the same rate as that of spot natural gas at the California border.
Energy Information Center on residential natural gas prices nationwide.
Your Southern California Gas Company gas bill has a daily customer charge
($0.16/day), baseline therm charges at a fixed rate ($0.90/therm in Feb.
bill), and overbaseline therm charges if therms exceeded 47 therms in Feb.
(varies with month). The current cost of gas $0.66/therm is that
of the gas which is purchased on the first day of each month. The
baseline charge is larger since it includes the distribution charge.
Propane costs to rural residents have jumped from $1.20 a gallon to over
$2 a gallon this year. Propane is a byproduct of oil and natural
gas production, but with higher oil prices, refineries switched from oil
to propane for their own power.
Coal bed methane currently provides 6% of the nation's natural gas.
It is extracted by pumping water out of coal beds, after which the methane
is released. Potential environmental problems are the drying up of
water wells and methane and sulfur dioxide leaks. While the North
Slope of Alaska holds 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, it also holds
200 trillion cubic feet in the coal beds. (LA Times, March 27)
On August 19, 2000, a fifty year old El Paso gas pipe exploded near Carlsbad,
N.M. Killing 12 people, it was the worst pipeline explosion in US
By increasing pressure on two other pipelines, 85 % of the 2.1 Bcf/day
has been restored.
The difference of natural gas at the source to its major destinations,
as for example Opal, Wyo. to Wheeler Ridge, CA is $9.21 per million BTU,
leading to a cost of $14 to $16 per million BTU. However, the actual
cost of delivering that amount of gas is well under $1 (LA Times, May 9).
The FERC will be examining this.
Kinder Morgan Energy and Calpine Corp. plan to build a natural gas pipeline
by 2003 called the Sonoran Line. The pipeline will be able to move
750 million cubic feet a day (Mcf/d). Calpine is committed to ship
400 (Mcf/d), enough to generate 9,000 megawatts, for 20 years. The
$1.7 billion pipeline will run from the San Juan fields in northern New
Mexico to Antioch near San Francisco. (1,000 cubic feet is about
1 million BTU.) California currently consumes 9 billion cubic feet
per day (Bcf/d) and proposed power plants will add a need for 2.8
Bcf/d in two years. (LA Times, May 3)
California natural gas prices have averaged $13 per million BTU this year,
nearly four times the $2.71 average in the same period last year.
The Energy Oversight Committee of the California Assembly has determined
that El Paso Natural Gas and its affiliates did not use the capacity of
their pipline and boosted the cost of natural gas by 500 percent in the
months ending in February. (AP, May 13). Our local congressman John
Campbell did not agree with this conclusion.
The FERC is judge and jury of the same case, which is alleged to have added
$3.7 billion to the energy bill.
The case is on the leasing of 1.2 Bcf/d on the pipelines from Texas and
New Mexico to California, from El Paso Natural Gas Co. to El Paso Merchant
Energy, which it owns. That represents 17% of the interstate pipeline
capacity into California. 45% of that capacity was not used, while
the price has risen from $3 per million BTU to $14 per million BTU.
While other shippers sold 98% of their unused capacity, Merchant only sold
7% of its. The contract will be over at the end of May, and 30 companies
will take over that capacity.
Response of El
Paso Natural Gas
One million BTU will serve a Southern California home for five or six days.
(LA Times, May 14).
Californians paid $6.6 billion for natural gas in 1999, $12.3 billion in
2000, and $7.9 billion just through March of this year.
The USGS estimates that the US has 580 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.