Calif. pleads for power savings to avoid blackouts : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

-Calif. pleads for power savings to avoid blackouts Wednesday February 14, 1:53 PM EST )

By Leonard Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - California power managers urgently appealed to residents and businesses on Wednesday to conserve electricity as the state's high-level energy alert moved into its 30th day.

With reserve supplies of electricity at dangerously low levels and rolling blackouts a risk for later in the day, the Independent System Operator (ISO) pleaded for voluntary cuts in power consumption.

"Energy conservation is no longer an option in California," said Patrick Dorinson, a spokesman for the ISO, which manages most of the state's electricity grid. "Conservation has to be seen as a way of life every day in this state."

Later Wednesday, the ISO asked Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, the state's two biggest utilities, to urge big industrial customers to voluntarily reduce their energy consumption.

These customers are part of an "interruptibles" program that gives them a rate discount for cutting power during grid emergencies.

PG&E's customers have already used up their 2001 quota of interruptions, but some companies have volunteered to continue reductions to help ease the severe strain on the grid, the utility said.

The ISO credited a mix of voluntary savings by residents, businesses, and industries and emergency power supplies from the Pacific Northwest for helping California scrape by without a new round of blackouts late Tuesday.

A blast of cold weather Tuesday put a further strain on the state's overtaxed electricity grid, and the ISO warned that power cuts might be needed to protect the entire network.

A warming trend in the state on Wednesday, however, will help reduce demand for heating power, "so it may be a little easier on the grid today, but we will keep a careful eye on the peak hours later today," said Dorinson.

California, which has not added large new power plants to its grid for 10 years, has been struggling since last summer to keep the lights on, with the needs of a rapidly growing population and a strong economy outpacing what its electric system can deliver.

Power officials said 10,384 megawatts of electric generating capacity -- roughly enough power for more than 10 million homes -- was out of service Wednesday for scheduled and emergency repairs. On Tuesday, 10,000 megawatts were idled.

Dorinson said some units in southern California went off the grid Tuesday night, which put more strain on the transmission system. It was not known which plants had broken down.

While the ISO scrambled to keep the grid up and running, Gov. Gray Davis and lawmakers in Sacramento were to keep working to craft a rescue plan for Pacific Gas and Electric, a unit of PG&E Corp.(PCG), and Edison International's (EIX) Southern California Edison.

The companies say they are $12 billion in debt because they have been forced to pay sky-high prices for wholesale power and they cannot pass through the costs to customers under terms of a state law that deregulated the power market.

The companies now must depend on the state government to buy most of their power supplies.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 14, 2001

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