PG&E raises number of customers subject to blackout

In preparation for 'potential electricity shortages this spring and summer,' Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said it increased by 120,000 the number of northern California customers subject to rotating outages, bringing the total to 2.8 million or 58% of its customer base. The utility, a unit of PG&E Corp., said a customer assessment was made because of the likelihood rolling blackouts will be used again this year to balance system load.


By the OGJ Online

HOUSTON, Mar. 19�In preparation for "potential electricity shortages this spring and summer," Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said it increased by 120,000 the number of northern California customers subject to rotating outages, bringing the total to 2.8 million or 58% of its customer base.

The utility, a unit of PG&E Corp., said a customer assessment was made because of the likelihood rolling blackouts will be used again this year to balance system load. The California Independent System Operator ordered power cuts that affected more than 1 million people in northern California Jan. 17-18 and has forecast a potential shortage of 6,000 Mw this summer.

In testimony, US Energy Sec. Spencer Abraham told a congressional committee power outages in California his summer appear "inevitable."

Beginning in September, PG&E said it began reassessing customer eligibility for exemption from rotating block outages, under the existing PUC rules, and made a number of changes consolidating essential and nonessential customers onto various circuits. Nearly 2 million customers are on an electrical circuit that includes at least one essential customer, and, under California Public Utilities Commission, exempt from interruption.

Jeff Butler, vice-president of operations and maintenance and construction for the utility, said the company examined 22,000 customer accounts that potentially meet regulators 'essential customer' criteria to insure no customers were missed that qualified for an exemption from rotating outages. At the same time, he said, PG&E wanted to make sure customers who are given exemptions still qualified under the rules.

Each PG&E customer is assigned to one of 2,900 circuits. Including the changes resulting from the review, 1,000 circuits contain essential customers and are exempt from rotating outages.

PG&E warned customers to review their PG&E bill on a regular basis to determine which outage block they have been assigned. PG&E said it is making every effort to ensure the information is accurate, but due to daily and seasonal operational switching, the outage block may not be correct at all times. Rotating outages are ordered by block number.

Under California rules, an essential customer is one who is exempted from interruption because of critical end uses. PG&E said the following customer facilities are considered essential, unless they have standby generators that can sustain the customer's critical load during electrical emergencies:

� Government and other agencies providing essential fire, police, and prison services.

� Governmental agencies essential to the national defense.

� Hospitals with 100 beds or more.

� Communication utilities, as they relate to public health, welfare, and security, including telephone utilities.

� Navigation, communication, traffic control, and landing and departure facilities for commercial air and sea operations.

� Electric utility facilities and supporting fuel and fuel transportation services critical to continuity of electric power system operation.

� Radio and television broadcasting stations used for broadcasting emergency messages, instructions, and other public information related to the electric curtailment emergency.

� Water and sewage treatment utilities. These customers may request restoration of service during a particular rotating outage, if electric service is required for emergency purposes, such as fire fighting.

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