California Heat Sets Off Outages As Power Emergency Recurs

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The New York Sun

SAN FRANCISCO — California declared an electricity emergency as it braces for another power-demand record and the possibility of the most severe energy shortfall in five years because of a persistent heat wave.

A stage 2 emergency was declared at 1 p.m. local time by the California Independent System Operator, indicating that the reserve margin, a measure of surplus power, is below 5%. Utilities will be allowed to restrict power to some customers who accept cuts during emergencies in exchange for lower rates.

California, with an economy twice the size of Russia’s, has struggled to improve the reliability of its electricity system as a growing population spurs demand. The state said it may call the first stage 3 emergency, which would lead to rolling blackouts for a couple of hours during the late afternoon, since 2001, when an industry restructuring and market manipulation by traders led to widespread electricity shortages.

“Conservation is now critical,” Yakout Mansour, the chief executive officer of the system operator, which manages most of the state’s electricity network, said yesterday at a press conference. “We may have to go to stage 3.”

California would declare a stage 3 and call for rolling blackouts when the reserve margin is less than 1.5%.

“A dangerous heat wave with record-breaking temperatures in California and other parts of the western U.S. continues to tax the electricity system to the limits of its capacity,” Governor Schwarzenegger said in a statement. He has ordered state agencies to reduce power consumption by 25% by limiting air conditioning and lighting.

Yesterday in the Central Valley, temperatures soared to 113 degrees in Modesto, beating a record of 105, while temperatures in Stockton topped 115, exceeding a record of 107, the weather service reported. The previous records were both set in 1960. At Pacific Gas & Electric, transformer failures have deprived 847,000 customers of electricity since July 21, with 46,000 still lacking power as of yesterday morning, a spokesman, Brian Swanson, said.

Sixteen thousand customers served by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power are also without electricity, down from 30,000 on Sunday, the agency said.

The New York Sun

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