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May 2020  •  Issue 26
As a federally regulated nonprofit organization, the ISO plans and operates the state's high-voltage electric grid and "keeps the lights on" for California and a portion of Nevada.

California ISO responds to COVID-19 with protective measures and new demand data


In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) has taken a series of steps to protect its staff, stakeholders, and customers, and to maintain power grid reliability.

At the outset of the virus outbreak, the ISO activated its pandemic response plan and implemented visitor and meeting restrictions to protect the health of company staff and concentrate on the core service of operating the power grid and preventing disruption of critical operations.

All in-person meetings at the ISO buildings and off-site venues are being held via teleconference or webinars until Sept. 14. All tours to ISO facilities, including the Folsom, CA, headquarters are cancelled until Sept. 14, along with any non-essential business travel for ISO employees.

The pandemic and statewide stay-at-home orders have not caused any reliability issues for the ISO bulk electricity system. An analysis by the ISO’s forecasting and markets team outlining the impacts on energy use is posted on the ISO’s public website.

The ISO also cancelled its 2020 Stakeholder Symposium, scheduled on Oct. 29 and 30 in San Diego, due to potential travel and large event restrictions. The symposium is widely attended by participants from the energy industry worldwide, typically drawing up to 1,000 participants.

For more information on the ISO’s COVID-19 response, visit the News webpage.

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ISO service to customers and stakeholders uninterrupted during pandemic


When it became apparent that much of the ISO staff would be shifted off-site during the COVID-19 crisis, the Customer Service & Stakeholder Affairs (CSSA) group reacted quickly to seamlessly transition to a work-from-home business environment.

“Because our team has a high engagement level with our customers and stakeholders, we needed to rapidly respond to ensure uninterrupted continuation of business operations,” said Joanne Serina, executive director of Customer Service and Stakeholder Affairs. “I’m proud to say the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders, while presenting extraordinary technological and professional challenges, have not impacted our quality of service.”

In early March, the ISO moved to temporarily suspend in-person meetings at its Folsom headquarters, and the CSSA team immediately launched an effort rescheduling all upcoming events and meetings to teleconference or webinar formats.

The phone and customer inquiry systems were quickly and fully transferred off-site, so those services were not disrupted. The progress of stakeholder initiatives has also continued unhampered.

There has been no notable uptick in issues submitted by stakeholders during the transition, with the exception of questions about coordination of planned generation and transmission outages for maintenance, which did not impact CSSA services.

“In-person stakeholder workshops and training sessions presented a particular challenge, since these face-to-face sessions are core to our essential business services for stakeholders and customers,” Serina said. “However, we have shifted these sessions to webinar format and are leveraging computer-based platforms for training when feasible.”

The ISO’s CSSA team is currently managing 14 active stakeholder initiatives, where customers and stakeholders continue to be involved in the development and implementation of new market design, policy and infrastructure planning. The ongoing initiatives can be found at the ISO’s Stakeholder Processes webpage.

To monitor stakeholder initiatives, sign up for our Daily Briefing and follow on Twitter at @ISOMarketNotice.

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Western Energy Imbalance Market gross benefits exceed $900 million


The Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), the real-time energy market operated by the ISO, generated $57.9 million in gross benefits in the first quarter of 2020, bringing benefits to a total of $919.69 million since 2014.

The Western EIM uses advanced technology to find and deliver the lowest-cost energy to utilities throughout the West while enhancing reliability.

In addition to the economic benefits, the cumulative greenhouse gas emission reductions is 470,245 metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing 98,867 passenger cars off of the roads.

Because of the renewable energy transfers, there was a reduced need for renewable curtailments during periods of oversupply. The avoided renewable energy curtailment for the quarter was 86,740 MWh, resulting in a total of 1,098,890 MWh since 2014.

Over the next two years, the Western EIM will experience one of its largest expansion periods with the scheduled participation of 10 new entities.

Visit the Western EIM website for more information on the market, quarterly benefits reports and other information on its governance, upcoming meetings and initiatives.

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    Adequate supplies of electricity for summer, report predicts


    The ISO projects a low probability of energy shortages this summer, except in cases of widespread heat events that would diminish imports from neighboring balancing authorities.

    The forecast is part of the ISO’s 2020 Summer Loads and Resources Assessment, published last week. The annual assessment provides a potential supply and demand outlook from June 1 to September 30.

    The most likely base case scenario shows the system will have adequate resources to meet energy demand in summer. System capacity levels are forecast at more than 48,000 megawatts (MW) in June, decreasing to just over 44,500 MW by September. The report also projects a peak demand in summer of 45,907 MW, about the same as last year’s peak.

    But low hydroelectric supplies, high heat, and limited imports could combine late in the season to create shortages. With California’s snowpack water content at 63 percent of normal, hydropower resources will dwindle later in the summer. During periods of high demand, the ISO normally turns to imports to make up any shortages. If a heatwave occurs that affects the western states region, there may be a decrease in imports in the ISO market.

    The ISO can tap into demand response programs, and issue Flex Alert calls for consumer conservation to help maintain system reliability.

    For more information, view the news release.

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