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State Power Supplies Dip, Blackouts Possible

By Teresa Rochester

Santa Monicans are no strangers to blackouts, and during the next ten days the potential for power outages in the City and throughout California is escalating as the state grapples with precariously low power supplies.

Officials at Southern California Edison, which serves Santa Monica, are urging residents and business to take the winter power crisis seriously and to reduce the use of power between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., when power demands peek.

Since Tuesday, the California Independent System Operator, which coordinates independently owned power plants, has issued "Stage 2 Emergency" declarations, indicating that power reserves have fallen below five percent.

"What's happening is basically our power comes from a state system and the state system is low on power and high on demand," said Mark Olson, government affairs liaison for SCE. "It's based on supply and demand."

Olson said interruptions in service would likely occur in the early evening when people are arriving home from work and turning on lights and appliances, while at the same time businesses are still open and holiday lights are plugged in.

Power officials also are cautioning that the state may see its first "Stage 3 Emergency," if power reserves fall below 1.5 percent. A stage three emergency could trigger temporary rolling black outs across the state to ease the burden on power supplies.

Olson said there are several reasons behind the state's power crunch. Several independently owned power plants have been closed for maintenance. Normally the state could turn to the Pacific Northwest to have power imported, however a cold snap in that region has taxed its power supply. At the same time, as it gets darker earlier and the holiday season kicks into full gear, more electricity is being used to power lights and holiday decorations.

"State officials narrowly avoided rotating power outages every day this week," SCE senior vice president Richard Rosenblum said in a statement. "The situation continues to be very serious, which is why we need everyone's cooperation in conserving energy especially at the most critical periods of the day."

SCE is offering the following conservation tips:

· Give electrical appliances and power tools the next several hours off.
· Shut off unnecessary lighting.
·Defer use of personal computers, monitors, printers, copiers and other electronic equipment. Turn off electronics when not in use.

If a "Stage 3 Emergency" should occur:

· Remain calm. Controlled circuit interruptions are not citywide and are limited to about one hour in length, after which power will be restored to your home or business.
· If you are affected by an interruption, turn off appliances, leaving one light on to signal when power has been restored.
· Avoid using elevators until the emergency has passed.
· Use flashlights instead of candles.
·Drive safely, keeping in mind that traffic lights and streetlights may be out temporarily.
·A power outage in your community does not necessarily mean you are experiencing Stage 3 rolling blackouts. Service is routinely interrupted by traffic accidents, weather and other situations.

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