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California Drought affecting Hydroelectric Power Supplies; Electricity Rates Up

About 15% of California’s energy comes from hydroelectric power.  Or used to… as California’s historic drought progresses, skimpy snowpack above depleted reservoirs will lead to less hydroelectric power and higher electricity rates. 

We’ll miss cheap Hydroelectric Power

I met recently with managers at the Independent System Operator, which runs the California transmission grid.  They expect a substantial decrease in inexpensive hydroelectric power this year. According to the California Department of Water Resources, as of this writing, most reservoirs are well below 50% or capacity; Lake McClure, Pine Flat and Isabella are at 10-20%.  Our hydroelectric power plants  are parched.

Hydroelectric power is as scarce as California's water

Hydroelectric power is as scarce as California’s water

Power shortages are unlikely, but rates will rise as utilities procure power from more expensive sources, like natural gas-fired plants.  The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler recently interviewed the California Energy  Commission’s chairman Robert Weisenmiller on the topic: “We’re going to miss some of our lowest-cost resources … at a time when we really need it…Hydro is really attractive.”

Kasler’s article provide some other good insights, and is worth a read.