Day 2 California blackouts from TV news : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

More blackouts ordered

It will be a second day of rolling power outages for California. Pacific Gas and Electric says state regulators have asked it to cut power to about 102,000 business and residential customers. Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric are also being ordered to cut power. They don't have information right now on how many customers are being hit. The Independent System Operator in Folsom had been trying to avoid blackouts this morning by ordering voluntary shutdowns in some large customers. But that effort failed.

The ISO says a Southern California plant that managers hoped would be back online this morning is not yet ready. Other problems include large numbers of other plants out for repairs and increased demand caused by the warm summer-like weather. Also, a number of alternative-energy plants are not producing power because they have not been paid by utilities. Sanger power plant stays offline One major factor in California's power crisis and the rolling blackouts that stem from it is the number of power plants that are offline. Many are shut down for maintenance, but others -- like the Dynamis plant in Sanger -- have been offline for months because they are not being paid by the utilities for the power they provide. PG and E owes Dynamis $2 million, and says it cannot pay. Plants in similar situations across the state would provide enough power for eleven million homes.

Rolling blackouts shut Fresno businesses, affect schools Rolling blackouts because of California's ongoing power crisis affected the Valley yesterday. Businesses were forced to close and students at three elementary schools in Fresno and Clovis were left without power. Gettysburg, Clovis and Nelsen elementary schools lost electricity, but classes went on with little interruption. Gettysburg principal Todd Bennett said it really wasn't a big deal because the classes are light enough; the students just wouldn't be using computers or televisions during the blackout

-- Martin Thompson (, March 20, 2001


California is experiencing a second straight day of rolling blackouts, as temperatures in parts of the state were predicted to hit 90 and consumers showed no restraint despite having the lights turned out on Monday.

Officials at California's Independent System Operator (ISO), which monitors the state's power grid, ordered the rolling blackouts at around 9:30 a.m. PST, after warning consumers earlier in the day that more conservation was needed. Shortly after 7 a.m., ISO officials said state residents had consumed 300 megawatts more power than they had through the same time on Monday, and with another hot day expected, warned that rolling blackouts could start as early at 10 a.m. PST. It didn't take that long. "A lot depends on what all of California does in terms of conserving energy," ISO vice president Jim Detmers said. "Most likely we will be seeing interruptions for several hours over the morning sessions, and then again in the evening. Those are generally the peak hours. The state was in a Stage Two alert overnight, after the ISO called a Stage Three alert at midday Monday because of increased temperatures, a higher power demand and a lack of electricity from the Northwest. As Californians went off to work this morning, the ISO once again had to issue a Stage Three alert and order rolling blackouts. With the peak energy usage period of the summer still months away, the renewed blackouts do not bode well for the state's energy picture. "We clearly cannot get through this year unless consumers reduce their electric usage by 10 percent of last year," California Gov. Gray Davis said. "That is not hard. You just turn off the lights when you leave a room, turn off the TV when you stop using it, turn off the computer or at least put it on sleep mode when you're not using it and turn the temperature down 3 or 4 degrees." A fire that knocked out a plant in Southern California was partly responsible for the severity of the situation on Monday. Further complicating matters were two power plants that were shutdown, one for maintenance and the other for unpaid bills, officials said. One plant could be back on line around noon, and another could come back at midnight, Detmers said. On Monday, the lights were turned out at noon in approximately 1,000,000 homes, including some in Beverly Hills. The outage last until 4.04 p.m. But two hours later, rolling blackouts were ordered again, and lasted a little more than an hour, Detmers said. Dinner by Candlelight The ISO ordered Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, two of the state's biggest utility companies, to cut a total of 500 megawatts of electricity on Monday. ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle said the outages were split between Northern and Southern California. A spokesman for Southern California Edison said the blackouts were affecting the Los Angeles- area cities of Chino, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Visalia, Banning, Kern and Santa Monica. The ISO last ordered rolling blackouts on Jan. 17 and 18, which affected more than 675,000 homes and businesses in Northern California for more than two hours at a time. Hospitals and airports were exempt from the blackouts. No major problems were reported as a result of the blackouts, though when the lights went out in some businesses, people were sent home. Some restaurants took advantage of the situation to offer diners a more romantic experience, serving dinner by candlelight. "It's the most fun we've had for what? All day," East Bay resident Lara Sera said. Summer of Darkness Forecasted Officials from SoCal Edison and PG&E say they have lost $13 billion since last year because of the high cost of wholesale energy. Energy wholesalers have been reluctant to provide power to cash-strapped companies because they fear they will not be paid. Davis has committed $2.7 billion for power purchases, which will be repaid when the state issues an estimated $10 billion in revenue bonds approved for less expensive, longer-term power contracts in May. Still, natural gas supplies are low, water supplies are down, and heat waves are expected to drive up the demand for power. Californians are bracing for power shortages and rolling blackouts into the summer as the peak demand for power is expected to exceed supplies from May through September. Monday's rolling blackouts came as Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham warned that summer blackouts would not be the end of California's power problems. Speaking before the Chamber of Commerce's National Energy Summit in Washington D.C., Abraham said California's energy crisis could affect the nation and last for decades to come. Abraham also defended the Bush administration's desire to tap the natural oil reserve in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "California is just a sign of the what's to come if we don't diversify our energy resources," he said. "The failure to meet this challenge will threaten our nation's economic prosperity, will compromise our national security and literally alter the way we live our lives."

-- Martin Thompson (, March 20, 2001.

Outages Caught California Off Guard Evacuations, Halted Elevators, Traffic Accidents Plague The State WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. , 4:40 p.m. EST March 20, 2001 -- Unexpected rolling outages on a day when temperatures hit nearly 90 degrees in some California cities surprised a state that prides itself on making disaster preparedness a way of life. No warning came from authorities Monday, forcing Edward White, co- owner of Pacific Pawn in West Hollywood, to turn away 10 customers. "What scares me is it's not even summer yet. This is definitely a problem and I hope the state gets it straightened out," White said. "There is no solution unless they raise rates or build new generators." "You can't make soda, you can't make coffee, you can't do nothing," said Jimmy Sueyoshi, an employee at Ida's Coffee in West Hollywood. The first wave of approximately hour-long outages began at noon, sweeping from San Francisco south to San Diego and as far east as the Nevada border, and ended about 4 p.m. The outages continued during a second wave that started about 6 p.m. and lasted for a little over an hour.

In suburban Santa Clarita, residents fired up their barbecues and broke out earthquake supplies when lights dimmed at night in parts of their community. Marti Kettle said the outage brought back memories of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when she cooked outside for several days. Since then she's been ready for emergencies. "We started barbecuing by lantern," said Kettle, who used a camp stove to finish cooking her dinner of steak, potatoes and beans.

The outages were the first anywhere in California since January, and the first for the southern part of the state since the current power crisis began. "It's never a good time for the power to go out," said Diane Carlini, a spokeswoman for Sun Microsystems Inc. Up to 2,000 of the network equipment maker's employees were evacuated from its San Diego office and Newark factory because of the outages. Outages were ordered by the California Independent System Operator after higher than normal temperatures and an electricity shortage brought on by the state's ongoing power crisis lead to low electricity reserves. In many cities, traffic signals went dark, tying up traffic and causing collisions.

A downtown area of Ventura lost electric power at midday -- with several people trapped in a darkened elevator near the 11th floor of the 22-story Dean Witter Building. Before the hourlong outage ended, maintenance workers were able to help the elevator passengers escape through an opening in the car's roof. Similar elevator trappings occurred in parts of Orange County and in North Hollywood, but there were no reports of injury. The possibility of rolling outages in posh Beverly Hills had Oscar organizers bracing for the worst, including the upscale Raffles L'Ermitage hotel, where dozens of top designers, hairstylists and makeup artists have set up shop this week for the Oscars. "Oh God, isn't this crazy?" asked Ted Kruckel, spokesman for jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and Helena Rubinstein's Heather Canavan. "We've got hundreds of thousands of dollars wrapped up in this. It's something I don't understand. Why Oscar week? Why can't the power go out during hockey season?" In San Diego, about 600 customers were evacuated from a Wal-Mart store that lost power. In the warm sun, workers passed out free cans of soda to the few customers who rode out the outage.

When the power returned at 2:50 p.m., the small crowd cheered. White, the West Hollywood pawn shop co-owner, said Gov. Gray Davis "better start getting in there with these guys and wrap this up." "If they don't do it, the economy of California will suffer. The big companies in the state will go elsewhere," White said.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 20, 2001.

Second day of rolling blackouts in power-starved California

Associated Press, SF Gate Tuesday, March 20, 2001 Breaking News Sections

(03-20) 2:05 PST -- State power managers ordered rolling blackouts across California for a second straight day Tuesday, cutting off more than 125,000 customers as demand for electricity again exceeded supply.

The blackouts in Northern California started at 9:30 a.m. in the parts of Block 12 that weren't hit yesterday and moved on to blocks 13 and 14.

However, the California Independent System Operator said at 2 p.m. that it had located additional supplies and that no more outages were expected this afternoon, probably until the evening peak at 6 p.m. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was restoring service to affected customers.

Areas that were affected included San Francisco's South of Market area and parts of Contra Costa County.

The same factors that collided to strap California's power supply on Monday hit again, officials with the Independent System Operator said. Those include reduced electricity imports from the Pacific Northwest, numerous power plants offline for repairs and less power provided by cash-strapped alternative-energy plants.

Demand was higher than expected because of warm spring weather. Temperatures were higher than normal across California on Monday, including the 80s and low 90s in Southern California. They were expected to be somewhat lower Tuesday but still in the 70s and 80s in many places.

A two-unit Southern California plant that the ISO hoped would be working Tuesday had not been fixed. One of its units might go online at noon to help the situation, the ISO's Jim Detmers said. The ISO oversees most of the state's power grid.

The first wave of outages hit at about 9:30 a.m.

The ISO asked PG&E, which serves much of central and northern California including San Francisco, to cut 196 megawatts, which translates to about 102,000 business and residential customers, utility spokesman Ron Low said.

Southern California Edison cut power to about 25,000 residential and business customers, including portions of El Monte, Rancho Mirage, Long Beach and Santa Monica.

San Diego Gas & Electric was also ordered to cut power but details on the number of customers affected were not immediately available. About 3,000 customers in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District had their power cut.

Jenny Sequeira, owner of Country Elegance Residential Care in rural Elk Grove, said everything from laundry and kitchen facilities to telephones were shut down when the blackout hit Tuesday morning.

``Thank God I have a cell phone. If there was an emergency, I'd have really been in a pickle,'' she said.

The ISO had hoped demand would start to subside and conservation would kick in, but that did not happen, officials said.

``We've been giving the conservation message since last May and I'm at a loss about why it's not working as well anymore,'' spokesman Patrick Dorinson said.

The blackouts Monday struck without warning, coming in two waves that left more than 1.2 million customers without power from San Diego to Sacramento. It was a particular shock for Southern California, since the two previous blackouts, Jan. 17 and 18, affected only the northern and central parts of the state.

``It was quite sudden, with no warning or nothing,'' said Nina Prommer of Globe Photos Inc., a Beverly Hills-based photo agency.

Intersections in Sacramento were jammed Monday as signal lights went dark. Trapped office workers had to climb through the roof of an elevator in Ventura, and businesses from San Francisco to Silicon Valley put up ``Closed'' signs.

Monday's shortages were blamed on a transformer fire and a lack of power from idled plants and out-of-state suppliers. At the same time, demand went up as unseasonably high temperatures -- 87 degrees in downtown Los Angeles -- prompted people to turn on air conditioners.

Power grid operators responded by ordering an initial round of blackouts that lasted from noon to 4 p.m. Monday, unplugging customers for about an hour at a time. A second wave started around 6 p.m. and lasted through 7:15 p.m.

California's power woes are far from over. Natural gas supplies are tight, water supplies are down and even higher temps could drive up demand.

Adding to the aggravation, the state has lost about 3,100 megawatts of power from plants that use excess heat and steam from industrial sites to create power. A thousand megawatts is about enough to power 1 million homes.

The plants say they can't afford to buy natural gas to operate until they're paid about $1 billion for past sales to the state's two largest utilities -- Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison.

``If you don't pay people, it's hard to expect them to remain in business indefinitely,'' said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of the Independent Energy Producers.

PG&E spokesman Ron Low said the utility has been making partial payments to alternative power plants but SoCal Edison has made no payments since November.

SoCal Edison and PG&E say they have lost $13 billion since last year because wholesale electricity prices have soared and the state's 1996 deregulation law prevents the utilities from passing the costs on to customers.

With the power crunch showing no signs of abating, Gov. Gray Davis told lawmakers Monday he will need an additional $500 million within 10 days for short-term power buys, bringing the state's total power spending to $4.2 billion.

The state stepped in to buy power for SoCal Edison and PG&E in January, when the effects of deregulation caused the two utilities' credit to be severely downgraded. It is spending close to $50 million a day. file=/news/archive/2001/03/20/national1227EST0568.DTL

-- Martin Thompson (, March 20, 2001.

'We Were Completely Blindsided'

Preparation: Even the people in charge of turning off the power were surprised by the suddenness of the outages.

By NANCY CLEELAND, Times Staff Writer

Dale Shull, vice president of power distribution for Southern California Edison, found out about Monday's blackouts the way thousands of other electricity consumers did: The lights went out. He was in a Long Beach restaurant. It got dark, fast. His pager blared, sending him scurrying back to Edison's Distribution Operations Center in Santa Ana--command central for blackouts in the utility's 50,000-square-mile territory.

Edison had been drilling for this day for months. But when the rolling outages finally came, they surprised even the people in charge of turning off the power. "We were completely blindsided by this," said Bob Woods, who manages the operating center, one of four in Edison's territory. He strode from room to room, a pager in one palm, a cordless phone in the other. His hands shook slightly; he had that look of having consumed too much caffeine.

Woods, Shull and Ron Ferree, Edison's director of Grid Operations, gathered in Ferree's office every 30 minutes or so for conference calls with other Edison executives and technicians, trying to anticipate problems and coordinate solutions.

At one point, the discussion came around to the merits of shutting off air conditioners vs. traffic lights. Many customers, lured by a 25% discount, volunteered to have their air conditioners shut off during severe shortages. The units were fitted with boxes that Edison could control remotely.

But the voluntary program wasn't supposed to start until June. Should Edison cut them off early or take out an additional two blocks of power, which could include traffic lights? "It's a public safety issue," Shull declared to the executives on the other end of the speaker phone. The air conditioners went off.

During more than a month of Stage 3 alerts, Edison engineers were warned of impending blackouts by early morning pages from the state. They would then alert public officials and police departments in cities likely to be affected. Blackouts were averted every time.

That's why Monday's directive caught so many by surprise. Just before noon, an unsuspecting Woods was called to his supervisor's office for a conference call with the Independent System Operator--the state's energy monitor. In the minute it took him to walk there, the need for blackouts had already been announced.

From then on, technicians and engineers scrambled to stay on top of the region's first intentional "firm load interruptions," tracking the blocks of customers who were out and checking that they came back on an hour later.

Meanwhile, they also had to sort out the outages caused by failed transformers, downed utility poles and other problems. Woods said the system received "thousands and thousands" of calls from customers without power early Monday afternoon. Woods' priority was to ensure that no essential customers, such as hospitals and fire and police stations, were disconnected. That's harder than it sounds, because the energy system is constantly in flux.

A healthy circuit can sometimes prop up a troubled one. During an intentional blackout, however, engineers must ensure that they don't cut off that healthy circuit if it's keeping the lights on in an operating room.

The blackout plan had been worked out months ago. Edison bundled customers in blocks of 100 megawatts--the equivalent of 100,000 homes. To spread the pain, it made the bundles from circuits throughout its territory. One block could include customers in Beverly Hills and far away Covina.

Edison created about 100 blocks. When told to take out a total of 500 megawatts, a technician cut power to the first five blocks on the list. An hour later, the next five blocks went out. Edison will run through the entire list before it goes back to the first customers.

Just before 5 p.m., the blackouts ended as quickly as they began. "Restore power" was ordered. Shull collapsed in a chair. "It worked the way it was supposed to," he said. "But this was hardly our finest hour. Here's a company with more than a 100 years of keeping the power on, and today we had to turn it off."

Another round of blackouts was ordered an hour later.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

-- Swissrose (, March 20, 2001.

Blackouts May Strike Again Sixth Round Of Blackouts Could Hit Wednesday Evening SACRAMENTO, 6:06 p.m. PST March 20, 2001 -- San Diego appears headed for another round of blackouts Tuesday evening, according to SDG&E Vice President Steve Davis. "As of about 6 o'clock, be prepared," Davis said in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. Davis said power resources are expected to be "very tight" between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday. While the situation is "very fluid and subject to change," Davis said there is still a "strong likelihood" that parts of San Diego will be eating dinner in the dark. Throughout Tuesday San Diego was hit with a series of five power outages, starting at about 9:00 a.m. each lasting approximately an hour. The Independent System Operator (ISO) ordered rolling blackouts Tuesday morning across California for a second straight day. Some 74,000 customers were left in the dark as a result of the outages, according to Davis.

Communities affected by the blackouts included: Portions of downtown San Diego Portions of Mission Valley Carlsbad El Cajon Vista Mission Bay San Marcos Rancho Bernardo Mira Mesa Mission Viejo Torrey Pines The blackouts hit due to a lack of "generation resources," Davis said. He said that half of the resources were off line due to planned events, such as maintenance. And half were off line due to unscheduled events, such as the warm weather. Other factors include reduced electricity imports from the Pacific Northwest, several power plants offline for repairs, less power provided by cash-strapped alternative-energy plants and higher-than- expected demand because of warm spring temperatures. Grid officials are blaming a lack of conservation as one reason for the blackouts. The ISO says grid managers were eventually able to import power from the Glen Canyon hydroelectric plant on the Utah-Arizona border. They were also helped by a 1,400 megawatt power plant in Laughlin, Nev., that was shut down for repairs. The plant is now slowly returning to service. But it is not expected to reach full power until Wednesday. The ISO ordered utilities to cut off power to enough residential and business customers to save 500 megawatts in the first 90-minute wave of blackouts. That's enough electricity for about 375,000 households. Grid managers reduced the cutbacks to about 300 megawatts in later waves. Monday was the first time that low reserves forced blackouts in San Diego. Outages rolled through dozens of communities throughout the day for 60 to 90 minutes at a time. SDG&E has said that when blackouts occur, customers should turn off appliances, and leave only one light on so it is clear when power is restored. Customers also should limit trips to the refrigerator and freezer and have a battery-operated radio on hand. According to Davis, the ISO expects Wednesday to go considerably easier. Plants like the one in Laughlin are expected to be closer to being full power and mother nature is expected to serve up cooler weather. During a blackout SDG&E urges customers not to call 911, but to call their blackout hotline at (800) 411-SDGE.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 20, 2001.

There's an old and true saying: "In a crisis, people don't rise to the occasion, they sink to their level of training."

The interesting LA Times article posted by Swissrose ("We Were Completely Blindsided") serves as a reminder that there are some hardworking, majorly stressed out technical folks "in the trenches" trying their best to keep the electrons flowing. The current CA situation is not their fault, and I feel for them. I like the description of the manager who looked to the reporter like he had had too much caffeine. (Been there, done that, in other fields of endeavour.) Sounds like the people in the control room are managing as best they can.

Some time ago we had articles here about the abuse ignorant members of the public were heaping on the only power company workers they ever see, namely the meter readers and the poor repair guys driving around in utility trucks fixing wires. I would imagine this is still going on?

The current situation has got to be hard on the real workers. So... If you are a worker in the power business and are NOT a pointy-haired manager/clueless yo-yo who is responsible for the crisis in big ways and little ways: My hat is off to you.

-- Andre Weltman (, March 21, 2001.

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