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California's Electricity Market - 2018/2019

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Joe Deely 14922
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  • Jan 4, 2019

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

Generation in 2018

California's electricity market(CAISO) made good,steady progress in 2018 towards a lower carbon future.  Hydro generation across the state returned to a slightly below normal number but this lost generation was replaced by increased generation from renewables and an overall reduction in demand. Natural gas, nuclear and imports were basically flat Y-Y.


Renewable Generation Capacity

As seen in the above chart, renewable generation increased by an average of  14GWh/day in 2018 vs 2017 and has increased by about 60GWh/day since 2014.

This is mainly due to new solar installations across the state. CAISO currently has about 22.6GW of renewable capacity available.  Utility scale renewable resources are increasing by about 1-2 GW per year in California.

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Natural Gas Capacity

In contrast, NG capacity in California is declining.  In 2018/2019 a net 4.5GW of NG capacity will be lost as 5 GW of NG units are retired and only 500 MW come online.


Prediction for 2019 CAISO Generation

Renewable generation will continue to grow - from 165 GWh/day in 2018 to 175GWh/day in 2019. If Hydro/Nuclear/Imports have a normal year and if demand stays flat Y-Y then Natural Gas generation will decline slightly from 177GWh/day in 2018 to about 170 GWh/day in 2019.

If this occurs we will have the first year where Renewable generation is greater than Natural Gas generation on CAISO.

  • Renewables = 175GWh/day
  • NG = 170GWh/day
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 7, 2019

Does CAISO track from where (both by location and by fuel) CA's imported electricity comes?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jan 7, 2019

Not sure where/if they do track this. They do have a "Master Generator List" which shows every generator along with fuel type. Find it here - under the "Atlas Reference" menu.

For a historical look at CA Import breakdown you can look at Total System Electric Generation page that California Energy Commission puts together every year.

However, this still has a chunk of "unspecified soures".



Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 8, 2019

Gotcha-- thanks for the info! I'm always wary of too quickly calling a victory for the clean energy mix of a grid when it includes unspecified imports. Though imports have the ability to be more clean as well as less clean, depending on where they're coming from. 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jan 8, 2019

Note that 80% of the "unspecified imports" in 2017 came from Pacific NW.

This is from CEC page-

Generally, the unspecified energy category would be comprised of short-term market purchases from those power plants that do not have a contract with a California utility. Much of the Pacific Northwest spot market purchases are served by surplus hydro and newer gas-fired power plants. Southwest spot market purchases would be comprised of combined-cycle gas turbine energy and some coal-based steam turbine energy. 

Also note that the entire Western grid (CA,OR,WA,MT,ID,WY,UT,CO,NM,AZ,NV) is getting cleaner every year. Was more than 50% carbon free in 2017.


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