Power warning could mean blackouts

By Mike Dinoffria, Special to the Daily Planet
Thursday July 11, 2002

California is inching closer to its first rolling blackouts in more than a year. 

A rolling blackout is when power supply is low and the power company intentionally turns off power grids, leaving people in the dark. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the state’s power grid operator declared a stage 2 out of 3 possible stages of emergency. If the level 3 is reached, it could be lights out for Bay Area residents.  

Total usage came within 5 percent of the state’s total reserves at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The alert followed the first preliminary emergency of the year on Tuesday.  

The extreme heat wave thinned energy supplies this week, according to the Independent System Operator, the agency that manages the state’s power grid. 

During the current alert, grid managers can call on a group of power users who agree to scale back electricity use during emergencies in return for lower energy rates, said ISO spokesperson Kristina Werst.  

By this time last year, the ISO declared 65 stage two alerts and 38 stage three alerts. An increase in public conservation awareness and keeping more power plants on line have helped avoid blackouts this year, Werst said. 

The ISO and Pacific Gas and Electric are still stressing that continued conservation will keep the lights on in California.  

The last rolling blackout in California happened on May 8, 2001. 

- The Associated Press contributed to this report