Heat saps power again

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Heat saps power again

By Dominic Berbeo Staff Writer

POWER CRISIS See our special online section for the latest news on the power crisis. [CLICK HERE] Officials at the Independent System Operator asked utilities statewide to cut 400 megawatts until at least 4 p.m. ``We just have run out of supply available and (we have) high demand because of high temperatures,'' said Lorie O'Donley, an ISO spokeswoman.

The state may be looking at a ``long week'' because of continued high temperatures, she said.

A presummer heat wave hit the Southland hard Monday, forcing rolling blackouts and hinting of things to come in the worsening energy crisis.

The hot weather, mixed with dozens of power generators closed for maintenance, caused brief blackouts in communities statewide, including Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Oxnard. The generators will be back on line in time for summer, they said, but demand is expected to be much greater as well.

On Monday, power demand rose about 2,000 megawatts higher than grid managers had forecast, according to the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state power grid.

"We anticipate the following (two) days will be very similar," said ISO spokesman Gregory Van Pelt. "We're that close on the edge."

The outages, which lasted from about 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., could be a sign of things to come this summer, said Dick Rosenblum, senior vice president for distribution and transmission at Southern California Edison.

"This is certainly consistent with what the ISO has predicted for this summer," he said. "On a very hot day we would have a much higher load, and it would be much worse."

Highs in the San Fernando Valley reached 96 degrees in Woodland Hills and Chatsworth on Monday, and were expected to repeat today. Temperatures in other cities around Central and Southern California are also expected to reach into the mid-90s, which could bring further outages.

In Southern California, roughly 34,000 commercial, industrial and residential customers of Southern California Edison were affected, said Rosenblum.

Small portions of 40 communities serviced by Edison were hit by the blackouts, including Chino Hills, Calimesa, Tulare, Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Oxnard, Barstow, Fullerton, Blythe, Santa Monica and Montclair, Conroy said.

On Thursday, a high-pressure system over the Southland is expected to subside, allowing the marine layer to cool Los Angeles off and bring temperatures back down into the 80s, according to Stuart Seto, weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

"It's just clear and hot out there," Seto said.

Rolling blackouts are initiated when a reserve shortfall of less than 1.5 percent is unavoidable.

The power supply to customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been unaffected by the energy crisis that is expected to hit most of the state this summer.

The DWP, which generates its own power, sold about 4,000 megawatts of excess power to other agencies statewide, including 2,600 megawatts to the state power grid, said DWP spokeswoman MaryAnne Pierson.

"It is our policy to sell electricity based on need, and we will continue to do so if it is necessary," she said.

But communities that surround the city of Los Angeles, including Calabasas, Ventura County and the Santa Clarita Valley, purchase electricity from Southern California Edison.

The energy giant is one of a handful that supply electricity to most of California that could face blackouts if consumption peaks during extended heat waves this summer.

At a midday press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Gov. Gray Davis urged Californians to conserve more energy. Davis said blackouts are inevitable this summer unless usage is curtailed.

"My friends, we are in a war with energy companies, mostly from Texas and the Southwest, who are charging us outrageous prices for the cost of electricity," Davis said.

"Everyone must do their part so that we can get through this summer without major disruptions."

Davis announced a plan with corporate building owners and employees in those buildings to cut back on power use by turning off lights and unused equipment after business hours.

The plan, which includes the Building Owners and Managers Association, and Service Employees International Union, is expected to save as much as 23 million kilowatt hours per month.

But that's not expected to make much of a dent in the midday power crunches that are expected to hit the state this summer, when demand is at its highest. Energy saved during the middle of the night can't be saved for use the next day.

Davis also said state office buildings are cutting back, with an average energy savings in February of 20 percent compared with the same period last year.

The state has also developed a Web site for business and residential consumers to get information on energy rebates and other conservation incentives.

Information on the new site, www.flexyourpower.ca.gov/rebates, is also available by calling (800) 555-7794 during business hours.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 08, 2001


Ominous signs, indeed, of the summer to come.

-- JackW (jpayne@webtv.net), May 09, 2001.

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