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SDG&E reinforces call for awareness with summer outlook

San Diego Gas & Electric provided on Thursday its summer outlook for energy stability, largely mirroring last month's statewide assessment predicting adequate supply but warning of potential vulnerability in San Diego.

A month after the region experienced a heat wave that gave rise to fire-friendly conditions and fueled a number of wildfires, the utility emphasized that although adequate electricity supplies are available to meet regional needs, conservation and demand response will be vital during heat waves or an unplanned power plant outage.

SDG&E officials joined officials from the California Independent Systems Operator -- which manages most of the state's grid -- and the California Energy Commission at a Thursday news conference to discuss what to expect in the coming months.

“SDG&E is prepared to meet this summer’s energy demand, but we expect that there will be days when we will need help from customers through conservation and demand response," SDG&E President and Chief Operating Officer Steven Davis said.

Steve Berberich, California ISO's president and CEO, said that while enough supply is expected to get the region through the most extreme weather, unpredictable events, such as wildfires affecting transmission lines, can still create reliability challenges in Southern California.

That's especially true, he added, as California ISO is still reinforcing the San Diego County and Orange County grids after the early retirement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

All Flex Alerts, Berberich said, should be heeded with power conservation until after that afternoon's peak.

"Voluntary conservation is better than people losing power, and makes sure that everyone has the electricity they need," Berberich said.

SDG&E said it has increased the reliability of the local grid over the past year with several major transmission system enhancements and continued coordination with California ISO.

The utility also said the Sunrise Powerlink, which was completed in 2012, continues to increase reliability and improve Southern California’s ability to import power, particularly from renewable generation projects in the Imperial Valley.

Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission, spoke about the vulnerability heading into a summer expected to be hotter than the last two, which were relatively mild.

Collaboration among California’s energy agencies, SDG&E, Southern California Edison and the California ISO has ensured adequate electricity supply for the area affected by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Weisenmiller said before reiterating the importance of attentiveness to Flex Alerts.

According to the 2014 summer assessment released by California ISO last month, reliability levels in San Diego County and southern Orange County are still within operating standards despite the local reliability concerns during extensive heat waves.

The report estimated there to be 54,171 megawatts of power plant capacity available this summer within the ISO grid, including new generation from within the last year of 3,644 megawatts and an additional 117 megawatts expected to come online by July 4.

About 61 percent of the new power supply comes from solar power, with about 7 percent from other renewable sources.

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