Davis orders 3-tiered warnings of blackouts

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Davis Orders 3-Tiered Warnings of Blackouts

By DAN MORAIN and NANCY VOGEL, Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO--In a significant policy change aimed at minimizing business and consumer disruptions, Gov. Gray Davis ordered state officials Thursday to enact a three-tier blackout warning system.

Forecasts of blackouts will be issued 48 hours beforehand, Davis said. General areas will be identified in warnings issued 24 hours before likely outages. Precise locations will be announced an hour before the power is cut, he said.

Business executives, police and consumers have complained that the current warning system--in which blackouts can come with less than 10 minutes' warning--does not give them sufficient time to save information on computers, shut down assembly lines, safeguard traffic intersections and otherwise prevent financial loss and mayhem when the power goes out.

In the past, state grid operators only gave short notice because they often found enough power at the last minute to avert blackouts. They said they did not want to repeatedly alarm people. Utility officials have said they feared that advance warning would leave neighborhoods vulnerable to looters and burglars.

But crime has not been a problem during California's six days of blackouts so far this year. And with experts predicting dozens of days of forced outages this summer, state and utility leaders say Californians are better off prepared. "If blackouts are going to occur," Davis said, "there is no reason to keep the public in the dark. We all deserve as much advance notice as possible."

Utility customers will be notified through company Web sites and radio and television announcements. Starting with June utility bills, Southern California Edison customers will be given "block" numbers that allow them to learn through the Edison Web site, www.sce.com, if they are scheduled for rotating blackouts on days of short supply.

Under the governor's order, Edison spokesman Brian Bennett said, consumers can expect 24-hour warnings about general areas--Santa Monica or Santa Ana, for example--that might be targeted for hourlong blackouts. At 60 minutes before a blackout is triggered, Bennett said, the warnings delivered through radio, television and the Internet will get much more precise. "For example," he said, "One hour before, we'll say Main Street in Santa Monica . . . will be affected."

Leaders of the agency responsible for deciding when blackouts must be triggered said Thursday they intend to launch the governor's order by June 15. And if Californians redouble their conservation efforts when they hear of blackout warnings, they said, the governor's order will ultimately help the state avoid blackouts.

"I think we're going to save power, potentially lives; we're going to help save jobs and California's economy," said Carl Guardino, a member of the board that oversees the California Independent System Operator, which manages 75% of the state's transmission system.

Davis announced his order at a news conference attended by law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who said he intends to unveil a more detailed plan for the county today.

For some, the decision to give warning was an acknowledgment that the state is failing to solve the energy crisis. "It obviously says we're surrendering to the electricity crisis," said Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Northridge). "Here we've arrived in the 21st century, with all the electronics, and we don't have the power to run them."

Utility spokesmen lauded the plan, but said that much of the responsibility rests with Cal-ISO, which is the only entity that has the ability to track supplies. "If the ISO only gives us 60-minutes warning, our customers will get something less than 60-minutes notice," said John Nelson, spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric.

As it works now, Cal-ISO informs utilities of pending blackouts. The utility, in turn, informs county offices of emergency services. Using computerized calling, e-mail and manual dialing, the utilities also inform law enforcement, major industrial users, people on life support and other consumers for whom electricity is vital, Nelson said. Californians at large are expected to learn of the warnings through the media and the Cal-ISO Web site, www.caiso.com.

Also on Thursday, Davis met with officials of California's publicly owned utility districts and came away, he said, with promises that they would sell excess power to the state at prices significantly lower than on the spot market.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), May 25, 2001


So, true conservation has descended on Californians. Well, that's what they have always wanted. I hope they will enjoy.

-- RogerT (rogerT@c-zone.net), May 25, 2001.

Davis is sick.

Sick, sick, sick.

-- JackW (jpayne@webtv.net), May 26, 2001.

I still say a "maybe" warning and then a 60 minute warning is not enough. They need to just schedule blackouts no matter the ISO situation. That way people can do a work around. There are kids home alone, people on life support systems, businesses that have runs that once start have to be completed or the whole thing is lost...like a bakery or aluminum plants or steel plants or plastic manufacturers/extruders. You can't run a business in limbo all the time. Why can't they just shut stuff down for one hour, same time each day? Or however long it takes? Taz

-- Taz (Tassie123@aol.com), May 26, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ