Cal-ISO Directs SCE to Reduce Electrical Demand; Utility Begins Controlled Rotating Outage Program

March 19, 2001

March 19, 2001

ROSEMEAD, Calif., March 19, 2000-With power reserves falling below 1.5%, 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.

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, issued the declaration at noon, and directed SCE to reduce electrical load by 250 megawatts.  This is being accomplished by taking groups of circuits out of service on a rotating basis.

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.

Approximately 21,000 customers were affected during the first phase of the rotating outages, including residents of Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties.  A partial list of affected communities includes small portions of Chino, Beverly Hills, Tulare, Kern, Long Beach, Visalia, Banning, Kern, and Santa Monica.

"We regret the inconvenience this will cause, but this action was necessary to protect the electric system and keep power flowing for the majority of customers," said Stephen E. Frank, SCE chairman, president and CEO.  "The most important thing now is for the public to remain calm and to exercise extreme caution in the areas where outages have occurred."

Throughout this emergency, SCE urges everyone to exercise extreme caution, especially at intersections where traffic signals may not be functioning.  SCE also recommends the public:

  • 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.

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.

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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.