California Imports About 1/3 of its Electricity

EIA: California ISO imports 26% of its electricity from other states

  • New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows Californians are using significantly more power than they generate, importing more than a quarter of daily use, on average.
  • The state imports a net daily average of 201 billion kWh from other western regions, or about 26% of its average daily demand.
  • California imported power from the two other regions in the Western Interconnect (WECC), said the EIA, which began tracking and publishing data last year focused on hourly operating data and electricity interchanges between electric systems.

As a country, California would be the world's fifth largest economy. But as a state, it looks outside its borders for a significant chunk of its electricity use.

EIA's survey looks at data from the 66 electric system balancing authorities that make up the Lower 48 U.S. electric grid, comprised of three main interconnections. WECC includes 34 balancing authorities, and last year generated totaled 724 billion kWh—while system demand totaled 728 billion kWh.

 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

"The California ISO’s net generation of 210 billion kWh accounted for 29% of the total generation within the WECC in 2016, while its demand, at 283 billion kWh, accounted for 39% of the regional total," according to the EIA. More than half of WECC’s total net generation in 2016 came from the Northwest region, which represented only 46% of demand.

The smallest of the three WECC regions, the Southwest makes up 18% of net generation and 15% of system demand in 2016.

California has been moving towards a plan for regionalized power markets, but has put the the proposal on hold since the election. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said any agreement on a regional power market would have to wait until President Trump gives indications on which way the White House will move on energy policy.Wyoming is in the Northwest region of WECC, which supplied a daily average of 122 billion kWh to California. (Utility DIVE, 3/6/20127)