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More rolling blackouts expected for San Diego, here's how they work

Posted at 9:21 PM, Aug 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-16 00:26:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Gas & Electric says rolling outages are likely to continue through the weekend and into next week, but that the situation remains very fluid.

The California Independent System Operator (CA ISO), which manages the state's power grid, has advised the utility that it's likely more outages will be necessary, especially on Monday and Tuesday, as a lingering heat wave continues its grip on the state.

However, just as quickly as the agency reversed course and gave the order Saturday night, plans could change, according to SDG&E.

How these rolling outages work

Rolling outages are a method that CA ISO uses to take the load off of California's power grid. When the state says the grid is under too much stress, each utility in the state has a percentage of electricity that needs to be taken off of the grid to meet whatever wattage CA ISO is aiming for, according to SDG&E. That amount that a utility will be asked to cut during these rolling blackouts is approved with CA ISO regulators every year.

SDG&E determines which neighborhoods will be impacted by creating a list of blocks. Each of those blocks accounts for about 25 megawatts of electricity. Once CA ISO tells SDG&E how much power it needs to cut, SDG&E goes down that list from the top, de-energizing blocks until it is told to stop.

The next day, the company picks up where it left off on the list, so that the same neighborhoods aren't affected every night. Once SDG&E goes through its entire list, it starts at the top again.

Outages can last up to an hour but can also be relatively quick. Saturday, the first block de-energized lasted for about 17 minutes, according to the company.

What you can do to help

To avoid rolling blackouts, officials say the best way is to take energy conservation seriously. Because these outages are issued by the state, conservation is needed by all Californians in these instances.

Officials recommend setting the thermostat at 78 degrees, turning off unnecessary lights and electronics, and using appliances before 3 p.m. to help save power.

During power shutoffs, SDG&E suggests customers turn off air conditioners, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed, and reduce their water use due to the need for electricity to pump and process water. For electric vehicle owners, charging should be delayed if possible until after the emergency shutoffs, SDG&E said.

SDG&E offers more safety tips to keep in mind during an outage here.