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New power alerts have shaky start

By Don Thompson The Associated Press June 1, 2001

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SACRAMENTO -- California’s new blackout forecasting system, ordered last week by Gov. Gray Davis, had a shaky start Thursday when the state’s grid manager issued a series of on-again, off-again blackout warnings.

The Independent System Operator gave its first formal one-hour notice of impending statewide rolling blackouts -- only to rescind the order moments before it was to take effect.

The ISO had told utilities to be prepared to cut 500 megawatts, enough for 375,000 households.

Earlier in the day, the ISO had warned of possible blackouts in the San Francisco Bay area. Those, too, were avoided when Pacific Gas & Electric rerouted power to the region.

"I think this is probably a good indicator how dynamic the system is, and will be," said Jim McIntosh, the ISO’s director of grid operations. "People just have to understand ... we could be wrong and that could be a good thing."

McIntosh said he was twice within moments of ordering blackouts when utilities in other states suddenly cut the power they were sending California and then just as suddenly restored it.

Business and agriculture groups in particular have been calling for early blackout warnings so they can avoid spoiling a production line due to an unexpected power outage. Utilities and the groups’ statewide organizations could not immediately say if any businesses shut down prematurely because of Thursday’s false alarms.

Adding to the confusion, the ISO’s blackout notice initially contained too little information for utilities to give their customers the full 60 minutes’ notice Davis ordered, said PG&E spokesman Ron Low.

"We understand the difficult circumstances the ISO faces, but we need critical information in a timely fashion from the ISO in order to implement the customer

-- Martin Thompson (, June 02, 2001


I've been watching these reports every day now. We came close to more blackouts mid-week when demand was 37,000 megawatts. But, cooler weather has abated the problem somewhat (temporarily). Forecast for today is for only 27,000 megawatts, easily handleable.

-- JackW (, June 02, 2001.

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