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California faces power shortages and price hikes amid drought woes: report

George Avalos, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

California faces the grim prospect of a drought-fueled summer of power shortages, hydroelectric plant shutdowns and rising electricity costs in areas that include the service territories of PG&E and other utilities, a report released Friday warns.

The drought could deplete big reservoirs in California such as Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville to the extent that the hydroelectric plants at those sites might have to suspend operations, according to the new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA.

The forbidding electricity scenarios have surfaced due to an alarming drop in water levels at reservoirs throughout California, including the ones with hydroelectric plants.

As of April 1, Shasta was at 48% of historical average storage while Oroville was at 67% of average storage, the EIA report stated.

“During drought years with lower-than-average storage levels, releasing water from storage increases the possibility that the reservoir water level will drop to a point at which hydroelectric generation is no longer feasible because the water level is lower than the point of entry into the facility,” the federal energy information agency stated.

The scenario of the shutdown of a huge hydroelectric plant isn’t merely something that happened in a long-gone past, either.

 

“This situation occurred in late 2021 at Lake Oroville,” the EIA report stated. “During the summer of 2021, the Oroville reservoir was drained to the point that the adjacent hydropower plant, Edward C. Hyatt, had to go offline due to drought conditions for the first time since it started operations in the 1940s.”

Plus, California has altered the mix of its power supplies lately, according to the federal agency.

“In recent years, California has shifted toward more solar and wind energy resources for electric power generation and away from natural gas power plants,” the EIA reported.

Since 2015, 58% of steam turbine natural gas units located in California have been retired, a reduction of 6,500 megawatts of electricity, the federal agency stated. Over the same period, solar capacity has increased by 8,800 megawatts.

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