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California avoids rolling blackouts for another night; outages still plague La Jolla

The California Independent System Operator grid control center in Folsom is pictured in 2017.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California came within a hair’s breadth of experiencing rolling blackouts the night of Sept. 6, but as of 8 p.m., the system operator that manages the grid for about 80 percent of the Golden State continued to keep the lights on.

At 5:17 p.m., the California Independent System Operator issued a Stage 3 Energy Emergency Alert, or EEA 3, a measure that warns energy users that rotating outages may be imminent due to sustained electricity demand eating into reserve margins.

But by 8 p.m., ISO officials withdrew the Stage 3 alert without any calls on power providers to “shed load” — that is, cut off power to selected areas until sufficient megawattage can restore proper reserve margins.

“Consumer conservation played a big part in protecting electric grid reliability,” the grid manager tweeted. “Thank you, California!”

Meanwhile in La Jolla, 437 customers of San Diego Gas & Electric were without power as of 5:25 p.m. as a result of three outages affecting two different circuits in the Mount Soledad area, the utility reported.

Two of the outages, affecting 236 customers, began at about 8:15 p.m. Sept. 5, according to SDG&E. A third outage began at about 2:50 p.m. Sept. 6, affecting 201 customers. SDG&E expected the three outages to be cleared by 10 p.m. It said the causes of all three incidents were being investigated.

That followed a troubled Labor Day weekend in which a total of 415 customers in parts of La Jolla were without power for hours. One outage affecting the Muirlands area reportedly lasted from the evening of Sept. 3 to the morning of Sept. 5.

Power continued to be sporadic in parts of La Jolla after electricity was restored Sept. 5 for a total of 415 customers following a long outage in the midst of a heat wave that has put a strain on the electrical grid.

The ISO officially declared an Energy Emergency Alert 2 from 4 to 9 p.m. Sept. 6. Under an EEA 2, several energy emergency measures from all resources are triggered, aimed at freeing up to a few thousand megawatts to help maintain balance between supply and demand on the power system.

Temperatures in the San Diego area remained elevated, and extreme heat continued to broil large portions of the state.

Electricity demand — primarily from homeowners and businesses cranking up their air conditioners — surged to 52,061 megawatts on the ISO system Sept. 6, breaking the state’s all-time record of 50,270 megawatts, set July 24, 2006.

An EEA 2 was declared on Labor Day, but conservation measures from commercial energy users and everyday utility customers helped stretch energy supplies and keep the lights on.

Sept. 6 marked the seventh straight day the ISO had issued a Flex Alert, which calls on customers to voluntarily reduce energy use. The alert is in effect until 10 p.m., with grid officials asking customers during those hours to:

  • Set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits
  • Avoid charging electric vehicles
  • Avoid using major appliances
  • Turn off all unnecessary lights

The last time California experienced rotating outages was Aug. 14-15, 2020, when parts of the state lost power for up to 2½ hours. ◆

Updates

8:43 p.m. Sept. 6, 2022: This article was updated with new information.