Power off again in northern California for second day

For the second day in a row, the California Independent System Operator Thursday ordered rotating blackouts in northern California affecting up to 1 million people. The grid operator asked the state utilities to drop 1,000 Mw, beginning at 9:45 a.m. PST. But during a morning brief, Kellan Fluckiger, ISO chief operating officer, said conservation helped dropped the number to 500 Mw.


For the second day in a row, the California Independent System Operator Thursday ordered rotating blackouts in northern California affecting up to 1 million people.

The grid operator asked the state utilities to drop 1,000 Mw, beginning at 9:45 a.m. PST. But during a morning brief, Kellan Fluckiger, ISO chief operating officer, said conservation helped dropped the number to 500 Mw.

He said the outages will last until 1 p.m. PST and are likely to start again at 4 p.m. lasting through the peak. Afternoon outages are likely to affect the whole state, grid officials predicted. The ISO is forecasting a peak load of 31,800-32,000 Mw, down about 900 Mw from Wednesday, a decline Fluckiger attributed to conservation.

"Conservation is having a bigger impact than we expected," he said.

With 11,000 Mw off line, "tomorrow doesn't look particularly any different from today," he said. The figure includes about 7,000 Mw of forced outages, including 1,000 Mw no longer available from the Helms reservoir.

Fewer megawatts are available today, he said, because the ISO borrowed today's water Wednesday. He said the ISO started the day with 28,000-29,000 Mw available. In talks with owners of off line generation units, Fluckiger said, he is hopeful about 2,000 Mw will be restored within the next 1-10 days.

More power might become available if ongoing negotiations with Canadian suppliers not subject to the Energy Department order that requires US suppliers with excess capacity to sell power to the ISO can be worked out, he said.

"Credit and money are the biggest impediment, "Fluckiger said. Gov. Gray Davis Wednesday in an emergency declaration ordered the Department of Water Resources to use funds already budgeted to buy power for the next few days.

Davis also asked legislators to appropriate money from the general fund to pay for power. The California Legislature is in special session seeking to resolve the state power crisis. Fluckiger said the Water Department has been in the market "for several weeks" buying power on behalf of the state utilities, but it may not be clear to suppliers the state is backing power purchases.

The crisis is having a particularly negative effect on interruptible customers who opted for lower rates in exchange for agreeing to have power cut off during emergencies. During Wednesday's emergency most were off line for 18 hr and Fluckiger said they expect more of the same today.

"I am sure none of these customers expected to be interrupted this many times when they signed up," he said.

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