California residents and businesses heeded warnings of
an electricity shortage on Thursday, turning off lights,
air conditioners and machinery to help the state weather
an energy crunch caused by soaring temperatures and high
Earlier in the day, the state's largest energy
consumers were notified that they might have to go dark
to help prevent blackouts.
"Residents really responded and we want to thank
them," said Stephanie McCorkle, spokeswoman for
California's Independent System Operator. "The
conservation we saw today from Californians saved the
equivalent of a large power plant."
The mandatory interruptions at industrial, commercial
and retail businesses were not needed. Energy demand
peaked at more than 1,200 megawatts below forecasts,
after it appeared earlier in the day as if use might
approach the state's all-time record.
Despite Thursday's reprieve, triple digit
temperatures and high energy demand caused localized
failures. Demand overloaded a distribution station in
the Sun Valley area of the San Fernando Valley,
triggering a rolling outage affecting about 2,000 Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power customers.
Throughout Los Angeles, a total of 3,500 residents lost
power, spokeswoman Gale Harris said.
Early Thursday, the California Independent System
Operator, the agency that manages most of the state's
electric grid, warned of potential trouble in the
state's power supply. It said it planned to declare a
minor power emergency at 2 p.m. and increase its alert
level to a so-called Stage 2 emergency at about 4 p.m.,
the hottest point in the day when electricity use soars.
Neither alert was necessary, as the state's largest
electricity consumers voluntarily cut their use. The
state's power consumption peaked at 47,843 megawatts,
well below the predicted peak of 49,105 megawatts.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp
said the utility asked 2,200 large customers with which
it has standing conservation agreements to reduce energy
use voluntarily. Those reductions saved 600 megawatts,
McCorkle said the Independent System Operator took
the rare step of holding a conference call with the
state's largest energy users and asked them to initiate
voluntary reductions in power use. Those combined
efforts appeared to work.
The state never came close to the worrisome Stage 2
emergency, which signals that its operating reserves
have fallen below 5 percent. At that point, the state's
largest investor-owned utilities begin cutting power to
companies that have previously agreed to be the first to
The agency extended its statewide energy warning into
Friday, marking a fourth consecutive day in which it
projected high demand and urged conservation efforts.
The state suggests setting thermostats at 78 degrees
or higher, using fans to cool rooms, turning off
unnecessary lights and restricting the use of appliances
to early in the morning or late at night.
Those whose health could be compromised should not
put themselves at risk by shutting off air conditioning,
The state also has opened cooling centers at
fairgrounds in eight Central Valley and Southern
California counties. They will stay open until Tuesday.
Most of California's vast Central Valley is expected
to have temperatures well over 100 degrees, with parts
of the Los Angeles region also forecast to hit 100. Much
of the San Francisco Bay area also is expected to be
warmer than normal.
The state has established a toll-free telephone
number to provide information about cooling centers,