In 3 cities, electricity may have been cut unnecessarily to houses

Some northern California towns seem to have been established Rolling blackout Tuesday’s error occurred after a miscommunication with the California Independent System Operator, the operator of the state’s electric grid. Historic heat wave.

At least three Bay Area cities began rolling outages Tuesday night — Alameda, Healdsburg and Palo Alto. Each city is a member of the Northern California Power Agency, or NCPA, a nonprofit joint power authority.

Another member, Lodi in San Joaquin County, said its power company, Lodi Electric, was asked to shed loads at 6 p.m. Tuesday, then at 6:20 p.m. power was restored to 1,372 customers in several neighborhoods after 7 p.m. In the afternoon, Mary Campbell, Lodi’s public information officer, said after the NCPA told Lodi that “we can restore power and we are ready.”

But around 8:30 p.m., Lodi officials learned on the city’s Facebook page that the “load shed order for Lodi was in error.”

“The NCPA reported that there was a communication error between Lodi Electric and Cal ISO, causing the NCPA to issue the directive to Lodi and other NCPA members,” the city said.

Lodi resident Larry Whited was one of thousands of customers affected by an accidental rotating outage Tuesday night. White said he received a text about ten minutes after the power outage: “The CAISO system has declared an emergency. Lodi is required to dump loads. A one (1) hour power outage will occur in your area within 30 minutes. For medical emergencies, call 911.

His power was out for about 45 minutes, Wittet said. Whited said he was angered by media reports and official statements that said there were no rotating outages in California Tuesday night.

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“Gavin Newsom Tweeted “There were no emergency shutdowns, but I knew there were because I was in one of them,” Witt said.

NCPA members include Lodi, Alameda, Healdsburg, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Biggs, Gridley, Lompoc, Redding, Roseville, Shasta Lake and Ukiah.

The California ISO said at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday that electricity was running low amid unprecedented demand as California’s record-setting heat wave strained the grid. The Independent System Operator moved to Level 3 emergency operations, allowing utilities to order to initiate shutdowns if necessary.

The rolling outages in several California municipalities Tuesday night were not ordered by the grid operator and were the result of confusion and misunderstanding, Grid CEO Elliot Mainzer said in a media call Wednesday.

“These are obviously very rare situations, and there was a lot going on for everybody last night. So we’re going to redouble communications to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Mainzer said.



Further Strains in electrical grid On Wednesday, peak demand is expected to be 51,243 MW — not far off Tuesday’s record of 52,061 MW. (Going above 50,000 megawatts is rare.) Another flex alert has been issued asking residents to conserve electricity between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

In a Facebook post Tuesday night, Alameda said the California ISO “has issued a Level 3 Alert from 6-8pm today, which begins our rolling outage. We have had to close 2 circuits, Marina Village and East End, and will have power outages for 45-60 minutes.

The city utility reported a second-hour outage on Bay Farm Island.

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Alameda Municipal Power Published In a statement Wednesday morning, NCPA instructed Alameda to shed loads around 5:45 p.m., resulting in power outages for 1,400 customers between 6:05 and 7:05 p.m. “If NCPA instructs to shed loads, AMP must operate,” the statement read.

“We are working with CAISO and NCPA to clarify procedures to ensure that there are no unnecessary outages moving forward,” the statement said.

The city of Healdsburg said Tuesday at 6:20 p.m. it was advised by the California ISO to shut off power for one hour. About 90 minutes later, the city said the power outage was due to low system load.

Palo Alto Utilities, the city’s municipal operator, said the power outage was in response to state efforts to reduce power demand around 6:30 p.m. About 1,700 customers in Midtown, Old Palo Alto and Industrial Park were affected by the outage, the agency said. About half an hour later, the utility said power was restored after the California ISO gave the go-ahead.

Jordan Cowman, a spokesman for Palo Alto Utilities, said it was one of several utilities contacted Wednesday. He said he hopes the NCPA and California ISO work together.

“We (shut off power) to our utility for the requested amount and then gave the all clear,” Cowman said.

Representatives for the city of Healdsburg and the NCPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some residents across California experienced unscheduled outages during the heat wave, including at several utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric Co., as the high temperatures caused electrical equipment such as transformers to malfunction. These are different from rolling blackouts or pre-planned outages to reduce wildfire risk.

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Jessica Flores (she/her) and Claire Haw are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: [email protected], [email protected], Twitter: @jesssmflores, @clairehao_

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