CAISO Peak Shift 1223

Peak load in CAISO's territory will shift to darker hours by 2023 as firm resources retire and batteries come on line.

California's peak electricity load is projected to grow each year through 2035 and to shift to later hours in the evening, when less solar power is being generated in the state.

Peak load in the California Independent System Operator's region is forecast to grow about 1 percent annually from 2021 through 2035, or from about 46,500 MW to about 52,500 MW, California Energy Commission staff member Nick Fugate said at a workshop hosted by the CEC on Dec. 16. By 2030, peak load in CAISO's territory is projected to be about 50,000 MW.

Electric vehicles will consume an additional 5,700 GWh in 2030 compared with 2020, CEC staff member Lynn Marshall said during the workshop. In order to reduce the strain on the grid caused by EV charging during peak times, EV owners could be pushed to charge during an EV "happy hour" when the sun is shining, CEC member Patty Monahan said at the workshop.

Similarly, the state's buildings could be modified to reduce their demand at peak time or a few hours before or after peak hour, such as by using flexible equipment and appliances, CEC member Andrew McAllister said at the workshop. The agency will consider running analyses on both these ideas, CEC member Siva Gunda said at the workshop.

By 2032, statewide electricity sales could climb back up to their 2006 peak of 272,000 GWh, according to the CEC's forecast. In 2020, sales came in at about 248,000 GWh. Although sales will increase, residents and businesses will generate much more of their own electricity in 2035 in many regions of the state using solar panels and potentially other resources. In Pacific Gas & Electric's territory, customers will generate about 32,000 GWh of electricity in 2035, compared with about 14,700 GWh in 2020, the forecast shows. Self-generation numbers will nearly double in Southern California Edison's territory, from about 10,500 GWh in 2020 to about 20,700 GWh in 2035, CEC staff projected.

Another cause of load growth is data centers in Silicon Valley, which could double the peak load in the region, from about 580 MW in 2020 to about 1,080 MW in 2026, CEC staff said at business meeting back in January (see CEM No. 1626). Cannabis growing facilities are also projected to increase their electricity usage in the coming years, Marshall said during last week's workshop.

The hour at which peak load occurs will shift from 5 p.m. in 2021 to 7 p.m. in 2023, Fugate said. CAISO's peak load is expected to occur in September in 2022 and 2023, he said.

The shift in peak load will occur over the next few years while California loses baseload energy resources. The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is scheduled to retire by 2025, and a number of the state's once-through-cooling natural gas plants are also set to retire over the next few years.

The load forecasts are part of the CEC's energy demand analysis, which is required for the state's 2021 Integrated Energy Policy Report. The forecasts and the IEPR are used by the California Public Utilities Commission in various proceedings—including its integrated resource planning, distribution resource planning and resource-adequacy proceedings—as well as in CAISO's transmission planning process, the CEC said. The commission revises its electricity demand forecast every two years.

Natural gas consumption is projected to decline by about 12 percent between 2020 and 2035, or from about 12,400 million therms to about 11,600 million therms, CEC staff said at the workshop. Interestingly, this decline will occur even though Southern California Gas Co. is projected to install about 500,000 more natural gas meters in its territory between 2021 and 2035 (see CEM No. 1657). More-efficient natural gas equipment is expected to more than offset the number of additional, new gas meters in California and leave the state consuming less gas in the future, SoCalGas representatives said.

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Staff Writer

David Krause is an energy reporter covering the California Energy Commission and Air Resources Board. He writes about transportation, climate change, utilities, and wildfires. He has an MFA in Writing, an MA in English, and a BS in Civil Engineering.