The shutdown of a San Diego nuclear power plant could lead to outages this summer, especially if the Southern California region experiences extreme weather or emergencies, say energy utility officials.
Southern California Edison officials say events such as heat waves and wildfires could lead to both planned and unforeseen outages, especially now that the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant has been shut down due to a leak detected earlier this year in one of its generating units.
“We believe we have enough resources for this summer. However, if a power plant goes down somewhere else for whatever reason, or if a transmission line goes down somewhere, we could have issues on the system,” Southern California Edison spokesperson Veronica Gutierrez said.
The 2,200-megawatt San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant generates 19 percent of the energy used by Southern California customers and helps keep the region’s energy supply stable. In January, plant operators detected a leak in one of the plant’s units, which they think is the result of vibrations that caused wear and tear not normally seen “this early in the life of the unit,” Gutierrez said.
An immediate shutdown was ordered. Initial plans were to have the plant re-opened by the summer, but officials are estimating the plant will not be back online until late August. “We are still trying to figure out what happened there… safety is the most important thing, and safety has no timeline. We want to make sure we are bringing that plant back up only if we are satisfied and the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] is satisfied,” Gutierrez said.
Officials could schedule brownouts, rotating them equally among the different areas in Southern California, but there could also be unexpected outages, especially at peak hours. “There are times during the day in the hot summer when the peak really strains the system… it’s the hottest period when we want people to conserve,” said Gutierrez.
To prevent outages and to reduce the impact of the San Onofre plant shutdown, especially during the summer peak months, the utility is offering incentives and programs to encourage the public to conserve energy. And for their part, Southern California Edison is trying to make up for the loss of the San Onofre plant by bringing back online two old generating units in Huntington Beach, and speeding up the upgrade of a transmission line that will help facilitate energy availability in Orange County and San Diego, the areas most affected by the shutdown. However, the Huntington Beach units can only be kept online for a few months before they need to be shut down again.
Customers are being urged to see this as an opportunity to reduce energy consumption costs by taking advantage of rebates and incentives for recycling old refrigerators, purchasing energy-saving refrigerators, changing out air conditioning units for more efficient ones; and upgrading swimming pool pumps. Also, by reducing energy use from 2pm-6pm on a “Save Power Day,” users can save up to $100 a year on their energy bill. Officials are also encouraging energy users to conserve energy on Flex Alert Days, which are issued by the state.
There are also ways to better manage power usage through the utility’s new interactive online SmartConnect system, which displays statistics and data on how much energy you use, when it’s used, and what appliances or electronic equipment is sucking up the most energy. The system can help energy users keep track of and manage their energy consumption.
Also, those who find out about the program incentives are encouraged to tell their relatives and friends who may not have access to the Internet or computers.
In the event of outages, Edison officials are also issuing safety tips, especially in the wake of tragedies from the windstorm, in which three members of one family in San Bernardino were killed by a live power line that broke and crashed into their backyard. No matter what the line looks like, it is better to assume that it is alive, and to avoid touching them, officials said.
They also recommend that those with medical conditions that require the use of air conditioning or other electronic equipment sign up to their “medical baseline” or “critical care” list so that scheduled brownouts will skip their homes or buildings. Hospitals or people with in-home medical equipment are also required to have backup generating devices in case of unexpected outages.
For more information about the Southern California Edison incentives and programs, visit www.sce.com/SummerSave .