Cal-ISO Again Orders Electricity Reductions; SCE Begins Controlled Rotating Outage Program

March 20, 2001

March 20, 2001

ROSEMEAD, Calif., March 20, 2001-For the second straight day, the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) has directed Southern California Edison and the state's other investor-owned utilities to immediately reduce their demand for electricity, necessitating a series of controlled rotating power outages within their service areas to prevent a potential widespread disturbance to California's electric transmission grid.

With power reserves at less than 1.5%, Cal-ISO, the nonprofit agency that manages 75% of California's transmission power grid and secures power supplies for most of the state's consumers, directed SCE to reduce electrical load starting at 9:30 a.m.  This is being accomplished by taking groups of circuits out of service on a rotating basis.  The initial group includes approximately 24,000 customers.

Often referred to as "rolling blackouts," the controlled outages will last up to one hour for affected customers, but could be shorter or longer in duration, depending upon circumstances.  If necessary, this controlled process will be repeated with the interruption of a different set of widely scattered circuits each hour until Cal-ISO can sustain reserve levels above 1.5% of energy demand.

It should be noted that totally unrelated incidents (such as a car hitting a utility pole or transformer/equipment failures) might also interrupt power for customers within and outside the controlled-outage areas.

All possible steps have been taken to avoid power interruptions to "essential-use" customers-hospitals, police and fire departments, and services protecting the health, safety, and security of the public.

Throughout this emergency, the public should:

  • Exercise extreme caution, especially at intersections where traffic signals may not be functioning; 
  • Avoid using elevators anywhere during this Stage 3 Emergency; 
  • Do not call 911 due to a power interruption 
  • Check on the medical needs of family and friends; 
  • Use flashlights, not candles, if you are without lights; 
  • Turn off all electrical equipment in use at the time of a service interruption, including sensitive electronic components; 
  • Leave one light bulb turned on to signal that power has been restored; and, 
  • If possible, monitor radio and television news stations to stay informed of developments and safety instructions.

Businesses, especially industrial and large commercial customers, can most help the situation by reducing office lighting, turning off all auxiliary or redundant machinery where possible, and by shifting or staggering operations, if possible.

Customers should turn off all electrical equipment in use at the time of the service interruption, including sensitive electronic components.  Leave one light bulb turned on to know when power has been restored.  If possible, monitor radio and television news stations to stay informed of developments and safety instructions.

Customers not affected by the rotating outages are urged to significantly reduce power consumption at work or home by suspending the use of nonessential equipment.

SCE will provide updates on the power-supply situation as new developments occur.

# # #

An Edison International company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation's largest electric utilities, serving more than 11 million people in a 50,000-square-mile area within central, coastal and Southern California.  Information explaining what consumers need to know about possible rotating electric outages can be found at www.sce.com.