Heatwave Prompts Stage 1 Power Alert

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, April 2, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On March 29th, record high temperatures in Southern California prompted a Stage 1 power emergency. Customer service was not interrupted, but it served as a reminder of how, even with reserve requirements in place, the state can come close to curtailing power for some customers when temperatures soar and a number of key power plants go off-line at the same time.

The California Independent System Operator declares a Stage 1 emergency when reserves drop below 7 percent. Stage 2 alerts are triggered when reserves fall below 5 percent. When this occurs, utility “interruptible” customers are required to shed load.

The power alert did not go unnoticed by lawmakers in Sacramento. At a stakeholder meeting on AB 2006 (Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles), the Edison-backed “core-noncore” market structure bill, Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno) told attendees that the recent power alert underscores the need to “do something this year” to deal with the need for investment in new power plants in California.

Reyes' comments bring to mind a similar mindset when legislators were deliberating over AB 1890 (Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga), the landmark electric restructuring law signed into law in 1996. About halfway through the summer-time negotiations, a multi-state power outage hit the western states. >From that point on, the reliability of the grid and related reliability issues became the overriding concern of legislators.

Eight years later, lawmakers remain ever mindful of the potential for rotating outages. Nothing focuses the Legislature on energy as much as the specter of rolling blackouts.
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