July 24, 2006

California could see blackouts without conservation

NEW YORK -- If Californians do not conserve considerably on Monday, rotating outages are possible with demand forecast to reach record levels again due to the heat wave, the California Independent System Operator said in a release.

On Friday, the peak demand reached a new record of 49,036 megawatts, up almost 8 percent over last year's record and almost 2,500 MW over the current record of 46,561 MW set earlier last week on July 18.

Meteorologists forecast the mercury on Monday would reach 84 degrees Fahrenheit in San Diego, 85 F in San Francisco, 86 in Los Angeles, 97 in San Jose, 107 in Fresno and 110 in Sacramento.

Last week the ISO and the state's utilities were able to serve the record demand, but with difficulty, the ISO said.

An estimated 800,000 homes and businesses were without power at some point over the weekend, but all but about 80,000 had been restored by Sunday evening, according to the state's large utilities.

With the return of the workweek, business and commercial buildings that have been closed through the weekend will open again and consuming electricity to cool their buildings.

The ISO is expecting very high demand of 52,336 MW at around 4 p.m. on Monday, which would break the current record set on Friday by almost 7 percent. A megawatt in California can usually power about 700 homes, but the number served per megawatt drops during record usage.

The grid operator said a Stage 2 emergency was likely and a Stage 3 emergency was possible.

In a Stage 2 emergency voluntary interruption of service to select customers is possible to avoid more severe conditions.

In a Stage 3 emergency consumers are advised that involuntary interruptions of service have begun and will continue until the emergency has passed.

The ISO advises customers to set thermostats at 82 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, cool with fans, draw the drapes, turn off unnecessary lights and appliances and use big appliances in early morning or late at night.

The California ISO operates the power grid in parts of California for about 30 million people and administers the state's wholesale power market with a generating capacity of about 62,000 MW.