PALO ALTO — Despite sweltering temperatures testing the capacity of the state’s electrical grid, electric regulators said California avoided rolling blackouts Tuesday just in time for cooler weather. So why did several thousand people in Alameda, Healdsburg and Palo Alto lose power?

Those Northern California cities and others may have inadvertently initiated rolling blackouts in error following a miscommunication with the California Independent System Operator Tuesday after it declared a rare stage 3 emergency. The three cities are part of the Northern California Power Agency, a consortium of locally owned electric utilities based in Roseville, which ordered the blackouts.

Elliott Mainzer, CEO of the ISO, said Wednesday morning that his agency, which manages California’s power grid, never gave utilities the order to begin rotating blackouts Tuesday night.

He said that the Northern California Power Agency misunderstood an ISO order to prepare for possible rotating outages.

“There was apparently some level of confusion between our dispatchers and their dispatchers about what was being requested,” Mainzer said.

“We did not need nor was it our intention to signal the need for rotating outages,” he added. “We’ll work with them to ensure there is no miscommunication tonight.”

The NCPA did not immediately return calls Wednesday.

Mainzer said he thought about five communities were affected in Northern California, with a total of about 45 megawatts of power that the NCPA inadvertently requested its members to shut off. That is a tiny percentage of the statewide demand on the grid, which reached 52,000 megawatts Tuesday night, an all-time record.

About 1,700 people lost power in Palo Alto Tuesday during a brief outage that lasted about 35 minutes. Palo Alto Utilities Department spokesperson Jordan Cowman said the city’s was one of several utilities across the state who were formally asked to “shed load,” or reduce power, by the NCPA. Palo Alto followed all protocols but Cowman said “it seems like the confusion was coming from the regulatory side.”

“We followed everything very very much to the letter of what was expected of us,” Cowman said.

Lodi in the Central Valley, which is also part of the NCPA, cut power to 1,372 customers across the city at about 6:20 after being asked to shed load 20 minutes earlier.

The outage lasted until 7 p.m., but by 8:30 p.m. the city informed customers via their Facebook page Tuesday that “we heard from NCPA at 8:30 p.m. that the load shed order to Lodi was in error” and that there was …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

      

Bay Area cities lost power due to miscommunication, say state regulators

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