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Californian energy crisis moves

California is preparing for a difficult summer. Energy supplies in the state and the rest of the northwest US are set to be ‘extremely tight’, according to Byron Woertz from the California Indepen-dent System Operator (ISO).

Speaking at the National Hydro-power Association’s (nha‘s) annual conference, held in Washington, DC from 23-25 April, Woertz explained that 20% of energy in California is provided by large hydro power. ‘We do like hydro in California,’ he told conference delegates. ‘We just need more rain for it.’

Hydro plays a big role in the state and is viewed as an important generation source. However this year’s snow pack is 60-65% below average. ‘This is not good news when 20% of your power comes from hydro,’ Woertz added. The situation will be made worse this summer if it is particularly hot. Temperature increases in May or June will make the situation even more severe. The preferred scenario will be if cooler weather holds out until August, when new generation will be on line.

‘Hydro resources will continue to be scarce in California and the northwest,’ Woertz said. ‘Energy conservation will become critically important in helping to avoid major problems.’

According to Chris Hocker, outgoing president of NHA, the confluence of power, politics and the shape of new markets has presented new opportunities for hydro power in the US. In the light of the current energy crisis, more and more policymakers are ready to talk with the US hydro industry.

‘One year ago we would never have anticipated the energy crisis in California,’ Hocker said. ‘The energy situation here has provided an opportunity to move the hydro agenda forward. This is the best opportunity we have had for the past 20 years.’

•See the June issue of IWP&DC for a more detailed report of the NHA conference.