Drought Could Drain California’s Hydro Power Supplies

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — California’s record-setting drought isn’t just worrying water agencies around the state, power utilities that use hydroelectric plants are also concerned.

Last week during the latest snow survey, state water officials discovered the snow pack was 12 percent of normal.

“The next lowest amount we ever recorded on this date was 21 percent; so we’re comparing 12 percent today versus 21 percent, which was in 1991 and 1963 as well,” Doug Carlson, spokesperson for the state Department of Water Resources, told KCBS.

Drought Drains California's Hydro Power Supplies

That leaves little water for California, which relies on hydroelectric plants for about 15 percent its entire power supply.

The current drought has utilities conserving for when peak season hits during summer. If there’s not enough hydro power, utilities may have to rely on natural gas fired plants which are three times more expensive.

PG&E has said it’s conserving water resources so it can run hydro plants and the California Independent System Operator Corporation, which operates the state’s transmission grid, said they have increased solar and wind options since the energy crisis of 2000.

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