An hour of power loss in three NorCal cities didn’t have to happen Tuesday night, and you’d better believe that various power agencies are pointing fingers over the snafu.
As the state of California made it through a Stage 3 Emergency heat wave power surge Tuesday night without having to order any rolling blackouts, power players from Gavin Newsom on down were high-fiving and spiking the football over the seemingly sterling lack of disruption. Though power was cut for about an hour in Alameda, Healdsburg, and Palo Alto, media reports described these power losses as “voluntary.”
Not so fast. Some recriminations are bubbling to the surface Wednesday afternoon, as the Bay Area News Group reports that those three cities cut their power because of a “miscommunication.” City operators in those municipalities thought they’d been given the order to cut power, though they had not.
Consider the city of Alameda, who cut power on 1,400 customers from 6:05 p.m. to 7:05 p.m., thinking they had been given the order. Apparently this was all because of some vague messaging between the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) and a whole alphabet soup of other regional and state power authorities, which in the case of Alameda, is the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA). As of Wednesday afternoon, the CAISO is acknowledging they should have chosen their words a little more carefully
"There was apparently some level of confusion between our dispatchers and their dispatchers about what was being requested," CAISO CEO Elliott Mainzer told Bay Area News Group. "We did not need nor was it our intention to signal the need for rotating outages ... We'll work with them to ensure there is no miscommunication tonight."
Yeah, about tonight, that is, Wednesday night. A Chronicle post-mortem of this snafu has a very useful chart about halfway through the article, showing the dates with the highest demand ever on the California electrical grid. No. 1 was last night, Tuesday night, September 6.
And No. 2 is a projection. It’s a projection for tonight, Wednesday, September 7. So authorities had better power up their lines of communication.
Image: Andrey Metelev via Unsplash