California Power Companies In the Hot Seat : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Power Companies In the Hot Seat / Unseasonable weather strains system Source: The San Francisco Chronicle Publication date: 2000-05-23

Air conditioners all over sweltering Northern California hummed yesterday, sapping the state's reserve of electrical power and prompting power officials to declare an emergency alert. Residents throughout California were urged to minimize their use of nonessential appliances, and some businesses were asked to shut down portions of their facilities to conserve power.

"If San Francisco had its normal May weather, this wouldn't have been a problem, but the Bay Area really heated up, and it made it difficult," said Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for the California Independent System Operator, which governs most of the state's electric power grid.

The high pressure system sitting over the West Coast is expected to weaken today, allowing some fog and cool Pacific breezes to come inland and drop downtown San Francisco's high temperature to about 73 degrees.

But the East Bay and Peninsula will continue to cook tomorrow, said Suzanne Anderson of the National Weather Service. San Jose, which experienced a record-breaking 96 degrees yesterday, will drop to about 91 degrees today, she said.

Yesterday, temperatures reached 95 degrees in San Rafael, 93 in Santa Rosa, 96 in Concord, and 82 in Oakland. Downtown San Francisco, laboring under 90-degree heat on Sunday, was significantly cooler yesterday at 78.

The unseasonable heat wave caught the power industry with some generating plants, including Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near Morro Bay, shut down for scheduled maintenance, said Dorinson.

That deprived California customers of approximately 6,000 megawatts, which would have served about 6 million households. The state will be back to peak generating capacity by June 1, said Dorinson.

The strain on the city of Santa Clara's power supply was equal to the hottest day of 1999 last July, said Larry Owens, division manager of customer service for Silicon Valley Power, which is in the ISO system.

The "Stage II" emergency was declared by the ISO at 12:30 p.m. yesterday after the state's power reserve slipped below 5 percent of customer demand.

Some heavy industrial facilities, such as oil refineries and steel mills, were asked to shut down portions of their plants to reduce the load.

Those commercial customers are on a special contract that gives them electricity at discounted rates in exchange for agreeing to curtail power use during emergencies.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2000

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