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Under High Demand, California Declares Stage 3 Power Emergency, Then Lifts It. What You Need To Know

The sun rises over power lines in Santa Clarita, CA
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The California Independent System Operator or CA ISO on Friday night declared a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency, marking the first time this level was reached since the state's 2001 power crisis. That order was in place for about 2 1/2 hours before being lifted.

In a statement, CA ISO officials said they began "ordering utilities to implement rotating power outages" about 6:30 p.m. and were able to stabilize the grid just before 9 p.m.

CA ISO manages the power load across the entire state of California, including Southern California Edison’s very large service territory.

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When the ISO is calling a stage 3 emergency, that can be serious for our region.

Why did this happen on a really hot day? Most of our power comes from solar and wind, some from gas-powered generating plants. At sundown, when solar power goes away, and if the wind is also low, and people come home and turn up their lights and air conditioning, the demand for power is highest. That puts a big strain on the electrical grid.

And when you have consecutive days of high power usage and warm nights of continued air conditioning happening, then the equipment can’t cool down and a utility runs the risk of parts of its system shutting down. That puts more demand on other parts of the system.

So rolling blackouts are a way of managing the demand (also called the load) on the system. It can keep the power grid from getting too much load and having a more serious outage.

What can we do?

  • Turn off lights, and everything else that you don’t need to run.
  • Hold off on running the dishwasher or washer and dryer.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed.
  • Unplug appliances that are not needed.
  • If you need air conditioning, turn it to 80 or so to give the system a break.
  • Charge up your devices now before the power goes off.
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One important note: the CA ISO does not include Los Angeles LADWP or a few other cities that work directly with L.A., like Burbank. The LADWP told customers it had sufficient power to avoid rolling outages. Still, if you are in the city of L.A., it would help the system if you cut down on your power use.
That's because the longer this heat spell lasts, the harder the DWP’s aging equipment has to work. With less rest, the system is more likely to have breakdowns.

The extreme demand for power in this heat wave is creating a serious situation. Before the rolling blackouts were canceled, SoCal Edison officials said in a statement:

Southern California Edison has been directed to reduce its electrical load. This is being accomplished by taking circuits, or “blocks” of customers, out of service on a rotational basis until CA ISO can sustain reserve levels.

The controlled rotating outages will last about one hour for each rotating outage group, but could be shorter or longer in duration, depending upon circumstances. More information on rotating outages and affected communities can be found at:

"In anticipation of several days of high heat, Southern California Edison has taken the necessary steps to prepare for the heat wave and crews will be available to make repairs as quickly and safely as possible,” said Tony Edeson, SCE’s director of Grid Operations.

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