Rolling Blackouts Hit Californiagreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
Tuesday May 8 1:41 PM ET
Rolling Blackouts Hit California
By JENNIFER COLEMAN, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - More blackouts were likely in California on Tuesday for a second day in a row as temperatures rose again and electricity imports from other states dwindled, power grid operators said.
Officials at the Independent System Operator said they managed to acquire enough electricity to avoid blackouts in the morning, but outages were still expected during the afternoon. It would be the sixth day of blackouts this year.
In what authorities had warned was a preview of summer, outages were ordered in sections of selected cities Monday afternoon as temperatures hit record highs and the state slipped off the tightrope of electrical supply and demand for the fifth time this year.
Rush-hour traffic jammed in communities where signal lights went dark, and police were sent to control intersections. No major accidents were reported by the time the blackouts ended.
Tuesday morning, demand was significantly higher than at the same time Monday, said ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle.
And afternoon temperatures were forecast in the 90s in inland California, with readings in the 80s along the coast of Southern California.
Although the ISO obtained enough power to avert pre-noon blackouts Tuesday, imports from the Northwest were down by about 1,000 megawatts, McCorkle said. One megawatt is enough to power roughly 750 homes.
Before Monday's blackouts, the Independent System Operator urged conservation because warm weather across the West was pushing up demand for electricity. Imported power was scarce and several key plants, including nuclear generating stations, were down for pre-summer maintenance.
The ISO managed to stave off a late-morning threat of blackouts Monday by asking for cutbacks from ``interruptible'' customers who get cheaper electricity rates in exchange for scaling back power use during emergencies.
``We were able to take off the interruptible, but only for so long,'' ISO spokeswoman Lorie O'Donley said. ``Then they started coming back on and the temperatures were still high.''
The mercury climbed to a record 93 degrees in San Francisco, while in the south, temperatures topped 100 in the deserts and a record was set in Lancaster at 96 degrees.
``We expected demand to peak between 3 and 4 p.m. and it didn't,'' O'Donley said. ``It just continued to climb.''
Grid managers ordered utilities to cut 300 megawatts between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes.
Utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (news - web sites) cut off about 54,000 customers in Northern and Central California. An additional 36,000 commercial, industrial and residential customers of Southern California Edison (news - web sites) were affected in portions of 40 communities.
San Diego Gas & Electric cut power to about 8,600 customers in Orange County, El Cajon and areas of San Diego. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (news - web sites) cut 18 megawatts, affecting about 4,600 customers in southern Sacramento County.
Tight electricity supplies and high demand led to two days of rolling blackouts Jan. 17 and 18 in Northern California. The ISO ordered statewide blackouts March 19 and 20 because of scarce power supplies.
The utilities blame the crisis on 1996 deregulation legislation designed to open up California's electricity market to competition. Among other things, the law temporarily capped the rate the state's largest utilities could charge customers even while they were forced to pay soaring prices for wholesale electricity.
In April, PG&E filed for bankruptcy. SoCal Edison is teetering on the edge of insolvency.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 08, 2001
Tuesday May 8 9:37 PM ET
Calif. Hit by Blackouts Again
By Nigel Hunt
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California suffered its second consecutive day of statewide blackouts on Tuesday as consumers turned up their power-hungry air conditioners amid scorching temperatures, ignoring pleas for conservation, while officials warned of more of the same on Wednesday.
The California Independent System Operator (news - web sites) (ISO), which runs most of the state's power grid, ordered utilities to impose blackouts across the state at 3:10 p.m. (6:10 p.m. EDT), cutting off power to some 300,000 homes and businesses.
Those customers saw their power restored an hour later but a second block then lost electricity and it was around 5:15 p.m. (8:15 p.m. EDT) when blackouts were finally halted.
ISO officials warned, however, that continued hot weather and tight power supplies threaten to create havoc on the grid again on Wednesday.
``We are experiencing record temperatures, so a third day of residual heat should be challenging,'' a spokeswoman said.
Californians, used to coping with major disasters like earthquakes and forest fires, appeared to be taking the latest round of blackouts in their stride.
In San Francisco, the fire department was called to rescue at least one woman trapped in an elevator while in southern California television stations reported a dentist was forced to send home a patient in the middle of treatment.
Customers at gas stations also found themselves suddenly unable to finish filling their tanks with some of the highest-priced gasoline seen in years.
Officials stressed that crucial public services such as hospitals, police and fire departments are exempt from the cuts -- reducing the danger of a major civic disruptions.
Blackouts had been forecast by the ISO since early in the morning with the heat coming at a time when many power plants are still off line for spring maintenance. The financial woes of California's leading utilities helped to worsen the crisis.
They were roughly evenly split between northern and southern California but customers of the nation's largest municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department and Power, were as usual excluded. The LADWP is not under the ISO's control and has more than enough generation to meet its demand.
Blackouts [More] Widespread Than Monday
Tuesday's blackouts were more widespread than the previous day, when some 225,000 customers lost power for about an hour.
Jim McIntosh, director of grid operations for the ISO said that the public responded to appeals for help on Monday and conserved power, helping to minimize blackouts. A similar response was not, however, forthcoming on Tuesday.
``It looks like we are seeing a lack of conservation,'' McIntosh said, noting demand has been running around 1,000 megawatt above Monday's levels.
Earlier Tuesday, ISO officials had projected blackouts could be ordered as early as 9 a.m. (1600 GMT), but the return to service of two 500-kilovolt lines operated by Canadian utility BC Hydro meant vital supplies were able to flow south.
As the whole Southwest baked with triple-digit temperatures in some areas, higher electricity use in states such as Nevada and Arizona meant less power for California, which normally imports up to 25 percent of its needs from its neighbors.
``With the regional heat in the Southwest we don't have imports...we would like to count on,'' said ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle.
Rolling blackouts follow a ``Stage Three'' alert when operating reserves fall below 1.5 percent -- a level where there is a danger of a total collapse of the grid if emergency action is not taken.
The shortage of supplies has been worsened by the financial crisis of the state's two leading utilities, Southern California Edison (news - web sites) and Pacific Gas & Electric, as many small power producers have received either no payment for their supplies or at best partial payment for several months.
McIntosh said that 700 MW produced by these suppliers, known as Qualifying Facilities (QF), are currently offline for ''financial reasons.'' There is also a further 700 MW of QF production off-line for maintenance.
PG&E Corp. (NYSE:PCG - news) unit Pacific Gas & Electric filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month and Edison International (NYSE:EIX - news) unit Southern California Edison has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for months.
The financial woes for the two utilities began in late spring 2000 as prices for wholesale power skyrocketed, boosted by buoyant demand linked to a strong economy and a decade in which virtually no new power plants had been built.
The price hikes were a financial disaster for the utilities, which could not pass those costs on to their customers due to a retail price freeze mandated under the state's 1996 power deregulation law.
The ISO just before noon and issued a so-called ``Stage Two'' alert. This resulted in the loss of power for some commercial and industrial customers. They receive power at a discount in return for agreeing to have their service cut off for up to six hours during an emergency.
McIntosh estimated that ``interruptible'' customers who lose service under a Stage Two alert represent about 910 megawatts of demand, of which 850 MW is based in southern California.
He noted these customers can only be interrupted 12 times under the terms of their contracts and Tuesday was the second consecutive day they had been called upon.
``That is another tool we are going to lose here shortly,'' he said, noting once the program has been exhausted the agency would lose an important buffer which has been limiting the frequency and extent of blackouts.
-- (email@example.com), May 09, 2001.