Hydropower Shrinking

An obvious result of the drought as this article from the Sacramento Bee reports, and a FYI, in today’s issue of the Bee there is a wonderful fold out of the Parkway in a magazine section on outdoor excercising in the region.

An excerpt from the Bee article on hydropower.

The drought is drying up California’s once-plentiful supply of cheap hydroelectricity, and utility customers are paying for it.

SMUD said it expects to raise rates slightly, starting with April’s bills, to compensate for the use of more expensive energy alternatives. Roseville’s city-owned utility has imposed a 2 percent “hydroelectric surcharge” on ratepayers since last July. PG&E consumers have been shouldering a 1.5 percent rate increase for more than a year to cover the cost of replacing inexpensive hydro.

While there’s little fear of blackouts this summer, the scarcity of water has slowed the state’s far-flung network of hydro turbines practically to a crawl. Hydroelectric production in California plunged 60 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Estimates for 2015 aren’t available yet.
That’s forcing utility companies to rely more heavily on power from natural gas-fired plants, solar farms and other sources, all of which are pricier than hydro.

“Eventually that gets rolled into rates,” said Robert B. Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission.

The problem is particularly acute in Northern California, where most of the state’s big hydroelectric plants are located. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, one of the most hydro-dependent utilities in the state, gets one-fourth of its power from hydro in an average year of precipitation.

Last year, though, hydro produced just 12 percent of SMUD’s power supply. The same is expected this year, said Jennifer Davidson, the utility’s manager of budget and enterprise performance….

Despite the water shortage, the state should be able to endure the summer with enough electricity to go around. In a preliminary forecast, the California Independent System Operator believes supplies “will be sufficient, even in the worst case scenario,” said spokesman Steven Greenlee. The ISO runs the state’s transmission grid.

Retrieved March 28, 2015 from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article16494344.html

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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