Californians Helped the State Avoid Blackouts Tuesday. Why Did Some Bay Cities Cut the Power?

Rolling blackouts hit multiple cities in the San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday as the prolonged heat wave put enormous pressure on the state’s power grid. But, as the Sacramento Bee reports, the outages were neither mandatory nor necessary. Instead, they resulted from a communication failure.

Lodi and five other Northern California cities imposed rolling blackouts Tuesday night — even though the manager of the state’s power grid said it didn’t order them to conduct the rotating outages.

The rolling blackouts in Lodi and elsewhere resulted from a communication breakdown between the grid manager, the California Independent System Operator, and a Roseville-based joint powers authority called the Northern California Power Agency. All four cities belong to the Northern California group.

The group of municipal utilities, which also included Alameda, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Ukiah and Healdsburg, represented the only utilities that deliberately cut power to their residents.

“There was apparently some level of confusion between their dispatchers and our dispatchers,” said Elliot Mainzer, chief executive of the ISO. He added that ISO is in talks with the municipalities to make sure the error won’t happen again in the future.

State officials have credited the public with preventing statewide rolling blackouts on Tuesday. Outages initially appeared imminent due to the state’s high energy use. The ISO then sent out a text alert just before 5:30 p.m., warning residents that the state had reached a Stage 3 energy emergency. Energy use plummeted as California residents heeded the call to conserve, avoiding the need for mandatory blackouts.

Well done, California!