Grid managers order rolling blackouts

The Associated Press
Tuesday May 08, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Record temperatures in California – and the increased air conditioning they create – led power grid operators to order statewide rolling blackouts Monday, cutting enough power for about 225,000 homes. 

The California Independent System Operator, keeper of the state’s power grid, said high temperatures in California and the West and tight electricity supplies led to the blackouts.  

Grid managers ordered utilities to cut 300 megawatts between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. 

“We expected demand to peak between 3 and 4 p.m. and it didn’t,” said ISO spokeswoman Lorie O’Donley.  

“It just continued to climb.” 

The outages were expected to last about an hour, then grid managers would evaluate the state’s power supplies, she said. 

Blackouts quickly snarled rush-hour traffic in portions of the state that had gone dark.  

In Santa Monica, police dispatched officers to check on the parts of the city without power. 

“It has a significant impact on us. We have to have police units out to control intersections,” Lt. Ray Cooper said. 

In San Dimas, darkened intersections jammed traffic, but there was no immediate word of accidents, said Nicole Panzone, a law enforcement technician with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. 

Higher temperatures forced power demand about 2,000 megawatts higher than grid managers had forecast, said ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle. 

San Francisco reached 93 degrees, two degrees higher than the previous record set in 1987. Other Bay Area cities also reported record-breaking temperatures. 

Temperatures warmed to summerlike highs in Southern California, too, with readings ranging from the 80 in downtown Los Angeles to over 100 in the deserts. Chatsworth, in the San Fernando Valley, hit a record-tying 96. 

Grid officials had managed to stave off an earlier threat of blackouts by asking “interruptible” customers to cut back, she said.  

Those large commercial customers 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. Then they started coming back on and the temperatures were still high,” she said. 

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Ron Low said the utility cut 125 megawatts in Northern and Central California, affecting about 54,000 customers. 

San Diego Gas & Electric cut power to about 8,600 customers in Orange County, El Cajon and the Torrey Pines and Mira Mesa areas of San Diego. 

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District cut 18 megawatts, affecting about 4,600 customers in southern Sacramento County, while the outages affected approximately 36,000 commercial, industrial and residential customers of Southern California Edison. 

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, the company said. 

In addition to scarce imports, several key power plants were closed for pre-summer maintenance, including four nuclear power plants, O’Donley said.  

Those plants normally would provide enough power for about 9.4 million homes. 

An early heat spell and a large number of power plants off-line for pre-summer maintenance led California’s grid operators to declare a Stage Two alert Monday morning when reserves fell to 5 percent. 

At 11 a.m., grid officials were five minutes away from ordering blackouts, but saw enough response to their call for voluntary cutbacks to head off blackouts, said Jim McIntosh, ISO’s director of operations. 

ISO officials urged continued conservation through Tuesday as high temperatures were again forecast in California and the Southwest. 


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 due to scarce power supplies. 



• The governor meets Wednesday with the CEOs of several major energy suppliers to discuss the money they’re owed by the state’s two largest utilities, the state’s creditworthiness and how wholesalers can help the state during the energy crisis. Davis says he won’t be discussing any of the investigations into price manipulation in the wholesale market. 

• Davis’ representatives continue negotiating with Sempra, the parent company of San Diego Gas and Electric Co., to buy the utility’s transmission lines. 


On the Net: 

The California Independent System Operator: www.caiso.com