Heat Wave Triggers Rotating Power Outages, the First in Nearly 2 Decades

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For the first time in almost two decades, the state ordered rolling power outages to conserve energy Friday.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency due to high heat and increased electricity demand, initiating rotating outages throughout the state.

A Stage 3 Emergency is declared when demand outpaces available supply.

The Stage 3 Emergency declaration was called after extreme heat drove up electricity demand across California, causing the ISO to dip into its operating reserves for supply to cover demand.

Foster City residents experienced the outage around 7 p.m. 

James Harris was just about to settle into his evening routine when the power went out.

“With this heat it’s pretty brutal without AC,” he said. “We dealt with it, open the windows and doors and enjoyed the outside.”

Some 34,000 people living in the area lost power along with tens of thousands more across the Bay Area and across the state. 

“None of these houses have air conditioning. Air conditioning is the biggest use of power during a hot summer day,” said Tom Dolan from Foster City. 

The heat wave forced state energy officials to direct PG&E to conduct rolling blackouts. 

“We were directed by the California grid operator to turn off power to 200,000 to 250,000 customers because of the supply and demand challenges as a result of the extreme heat,” said PG&E spokesperson Jeff Smith. “We have hot weather regionally but what took place today was extremely hot temperatures throughout the state of California, we had cloud cover today which had an impact.”

California electric officials will be closely monitoring the situation through the weekend and PG&E says it knows what can help prevent it. 

“The best thing our customers can do is to conserve as much energy as possible,” said Smith.

All power was expected to be restored by 11 p.m. However, state officials warn another rolling outage could happen Saturday evening.

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