ALAMEDA (CBS SF) – Straining under a spike in demand for electricity under sweltering temperatures, state power grid officials Friday night ordered utility companies for the first time since the energy crisis in 2001 to begin rolling, one-hour outages to thousands of customers.
Rolling blackouts were reported in Alameda and San Mateo as well as Marin and Sonoma counties by 8 p.m.
But by 9 p.m., Alameda Municipal Power tweeted that the energy crisis had passed — “We’ve been instructed by the California Independent System Operator that the grid has stabilized. All power has been restored in the west end and there will be no further outages tonight.”
State power grid officials lowered the energy demand surge from Stage 3 to Stage 2 moments later.
“Power that had been disrupted as part of the emergency has been restored statewide,” the California ISO said in a statement. “The grid operator went into Stage 3 Emergency at 6:36 p.m., ordering utilities to implement rotating power outages to protect the stability of the grid. By 7:51 p.m., the grid had stabilized, and utilities began restoring 1,000 megawatts of electricity that had been taken out of service. The emergency declaration was lifted at 8:54 p.m. The ISO’s grid operators are closely monitoring supply and demand during the extreme heat event.”
“Extreme heat is really the driver behind this,” said Anne Gonzales, spokeswoman for the power grid operator.
The move came as temperatures around the state hit triple digits in many areas and air conditioning use soared.
Temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees above normal in some areas, Gonzales said.
In addition, cloudy weather from the remnants of a tropical weather system reduced power generation from solar plants, she said.
The heat wave is expected to last through next week and the power grid operator will decide whether to continue the rolling outages on a day-to-day basis, Gonzales said.
On what would have been a busy and profitable start to the weekend, the outages hit some struggling restaurants hard. In San Rafael, Bill Higgins said he was in the kitchen of his restaurant, Whipper Snapper, when the power went out.
“We just did the best we could,” Higgins told KPIX. “We cooked whatever we could for as long as we could without the electricity. It started to get dark and we had to shut it down … Restaurants are already under the gun and this was hurtful, to say the least.”
The city of Alameda had been among the first Bay Area communities to be impacted by the rolling blackouts. Alameda Power officials sent an outage alert to ratepayers around 7:30 p.m. Friday evening, saying the California Independent System Operator instructed the utility company to begin rolling blackouts.
“We have started the first blackout affecting 3,200 customers in the southwest end of Alameda. The blackout will last about an hour,” said the alert.
A PG&E spokesperson said about 8,000 customers remained without power as of 10 p.m. The areas affected are in parts of Marin, Napa and San Mateo counties, with the largest concentration of outages in the San Mateo and Foster City area.
In northern California, another 10,000 PG&E customers remained without power, mostly in El Dorado County.
PG&E expected all power to be restored by 11 p.m.
RELATED PG&E Outage Map
Local residents took to social media to voice their anger over the suddenness of the outages.
From Amy Stevenson: “You could have warned us. I live in a multi building complex@with elevators. Now AFD has to tie up resources rescuing those people.”
W Callow agreed posting: “So like… could we have been given warning???”
Rolling power outages… welp, time for candles and board games. pic.twitter.com/1myZuem9Hx
— Christina Britton (@cbrittonauthor) August 15, 2020
In Sonoma County, the sheriff’s office said 42,455 local residents were without power at the height of the outages. Power to the entire city of Sebastopol had been shut down.
Police in Sausalito and San Rafael also issued warnings as the outages rolled through dozens of neighborhoods.
Earlier, the ISO issued a Stage 3 Power alert shortly after issuing a Stage 2 warning due to excessive heat and high energy demand, initiating rolling blackouts across the state.
“The California ISO is working closely with California utilities and neighboring power systems to manage strain on the grid and to restore the power grid to full capacity,” the operator said in a statement. “As portions of the grid are restored, local utilities will restore power in a coordinated fashion.”
Some 250,000 homes and businesses may be impacted by the power disruptions.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report