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Valley still unaffected by power shortage

January 21, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

As the majority of the state faced Stage 3 power alerts over the weekend, with more rolling blackouts expected this week, the Imperial Valley remained unaffected by the power crunch.

Imperial Irrigation District Executive Officer Brad Luckey said this morning IID continues to have enough power to meet the needs of its customers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

Luckey said the IID, as a public utility, has been and will continue to be immune to the power crunch affecting much of California.

"We are the exception because of our location geographically to the rest of the state," Luckey said, adding, "We are just separated out of the grid."

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The grid is the system by which power is transmitted throughout the state. Luckey said there are two power lines that run from the Valley to other areas of the state, and one of those lines runs through the Valley from Arizona.

Luckey said should the state look to public utilities to help solve the power crunch, he thinks there is not much IID could do to help.

He said the two lines that run through the Valley are filled to capacity, leaving no room to transmit power to other areas of the state. One of the power lines allows the local geothermal industry to supply power to Southern California Edison, one of the privately owned power companies facing a critical shortage of power.

Luckey said if the state wanted to tap into IID's power, it would have to approve the building of temporary power lines.

Luckey said for now the IID is able to meet local power needs without turning on its own power plants.

Instead, IID is utilizing power it receives from power suppliers from areas such as Arizona, where power can be generated at a lower cost.

While the Imperial Valley has been immune to the power crunch in other parts of the state, it will not be immune to a higher power cost.

The IID Board of Trustees during its meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday will discuss the rising costs of supplying power.

That meeting will be in the board's auditorium, 1285 Broadway in El Centro.

IID's officials have said they have no choice but to increase the cost of power. That increase would be included on the energy cost-adjustment portion of power bills.

That power increase would be caused by an increased price IID will pay for natural gas during the summer months. Natural gas is the fuel for IID's power plants, which will be turned on to meet the power needs during the summer.

IID officials have said people can expect to see higher bills as early as February. They said by increasing costs now, they can avoid severe increases during the summer.

Luckey said the power crunch has come in the wake of the deregulation of the power industry, but he said that is not the only reason the state is struggling to meet power needs.

He said policies that prevented the building of power plants and transmission lines until recently also contributed to the crisis, and only now is the state moving toward building new plants.

On the issue of deregulation, the IID is facing a 2002 deadline to make a decision on whether to open the local market.

However, Luckey said he thinks that deadline may not be a reality because of changes taking place regarding deregulation.

He said the deregulation the IID board might vote on, if it has to vote at all, likely would be much changed from the current deregulation system.

He said of deregulation, "It was a failed experiment."

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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