Following the widespread power crunch across much of California this summer, US utilities are turning to smart metering and domestic demand-side response in a bid to curb summer peaks, which are significantly influenced by air conditioning demand.

Following a directive issued by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) president Michael Peevey, Southern California Edison (SCE) is preparing a proposal to expand a programme that offers residential customers discounts on summer bills in return for an interruptible supply to domestic air conditioning units. Currently, close to 190,000 customers subscribe, providing a substantial 390 MW of load reduction.

The news follows the recent CPUC approval of a widespread roll-out of smart meters for domestic customers of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

The Commission authorised PG&E to spend $1.7 billion to deploy smart meters throughout its territory, some 5 million electric and 4 million gas meters, over the next 5 years. The move will enable PG&E to offer time varying rates to all of its customers. Peevey commented: “In California’s Energy Action Plan, demand response, along with energy efficiency, is the state’s preferred means of meeting growing energy needs.” PG&E estimates a demand reduction of 448 MW from its smart meter programme.

A voluntary Critical Peak Pricing (CPP) Programme for residential, small commercial, and industrial customers under 200 kW was also approved by the CPUC which is expected to be available in the spring of 2007.

Nonetheless, despite such measures the state is also increasingly turning to peaking plant to meet its high summer demand, with the California Energy Commission recently recommending that the CPUC approve a proposed 145 MW project in San Francisco.

The $140 million project, a simple-cycle peaker, would operate in the southeastern Potrero District and would be operated up to 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, but not more than 12,000 hours per year for all three combustion turbines combined. Construction of the plant is expected to take about a year with generation expected in late 2007.

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