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Blackouts: What to do

This summer, know what to do before, during, and after a blackout to keep you and your family safe. These tips from FEMA provide excellent guidelines for staying safe and informed.

The following text is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For more information, visit them online at: ready.gov/blackouts.

"Before a Blackout:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible, which can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts.
  • Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the refrigerator and freezer if there's room. Leave about an inch of space inside each one, because water expands as it freezes. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold during a temporary power outage, by displacing air that can warm up quickly with water or ice that keeps cold for several hours without additional refrigeration.
  • Be aware that most medication that requires refrigeration can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.
  • Keep your car tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it. Garage doors can be heavy, so know that you may need help to lift it.
  • Keep a key to your house with you if you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home, in case the garage door will not open. 

During a Blackout:

  • Use only flashlights for emergency lighting. NEVER use candles during a blackout or power outage due to extreme risk of fire.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics in use when the power went out. Power may return with momentary "surges” or “spikes” that can damage computers as well as motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer or furnace.
  • Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.
  • Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system.  If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to run directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Listen to local radio and to a battery- or generator-powered television for updated information.
  • Leave on one light so that you'll know when your power returns.
  • Use a standard telephone handset, cellular phone, radio or pager if your phone requires electricity to work, as do cordless phones and answering machines. Use the phone for emergencies only. Listen to a portable radio for the latest information.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 for information—call only to report a life-threatening emergency. Use the phone for life-threatening emergencies only.
  • Take steps to remain cool if it is hot outside. In intense heat when the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall or “cooling shelter” that may be open in your community. If you remain at home, move to the lowest level of your home, since cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Put on layers of warm clothing if it is cold outside. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (the home of a relative or friend, or a public facility) that has heat to keep warm.
  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion.
  • Remember that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not work during a power outage. 

 After a Blackout:

Throw out unsafe food:

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
  • If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch."

 

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Demand Response Programs

Demand Response Programs typically provide incentives and other benefits to business owners who can reduce/curtail their facilities energy use during times of peak demand. These programs help ensure reliable and affordable power for all Californians and are available to most commercial customers and some residential customers.

Watch PG&E's Demand Response video to understand visually why demand response programs work to help curtail energy demand when supply is short.

Following are California's Electric Load-Serving Entities (LSEs)

California's Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) – Demand Response Programs

Click on the links below to see the various Demand Response Programs offered by utilities throughout the state.

ad-pge-logoPacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

sdgeconnectedlogoSan Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E)

sce logoSouthern California Edison (SCE)

 

 Note: Pacific Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power utilities are not actually part of the California ISO Balancing Authority.

Publicly Owned Electric Load-Serving Entities (LSEs) Including Publicly Owned Utilities (POUs)

Click on the links below to see utility homepages or Demand Response Programs offered.

Alameda Power & Telecom

Anaheim Public Utilities

Azusa Light & Water Department

Banning Electric Department

Biggs City Electric Utility

Burbank Water and Power

CCSF (also called Power Enterprise of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission)

Cerritos, City of Cerritos Electric Utility

City of Industry

Colton Public Utilities

Corona, City of Department of Water and Power

Eastside Power Authority

Glendale Water and Power

Gridley Electric Utility

Healdsburg, City of Electric Department

Hercules Municipal Utility

Imperial Irrigation District (IID)

Kirkwood Meadows Public Utility District

Lassen Municipal Utility District

Lodi Electric Utility

Lompoc, City of, Electric Division

Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP)

Merced Irrigation District (MeID)

Modesto Irrigation District (MID)

Moreno Valley Utility (MVU)

Needles, City of (Public Utility Authority)

Palo Alto, City of

Pasadena Water and Power

Pittsburg, City of

Port of Oakland

Port of Stockton

Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority (PWRPA)

Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Utility

Redding Electric Utility

Riverside, City of, Public Utilities Department

Roseville Electric

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)

Shasta Lake, City of

Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District (RID)

Silicon Valley Power (SVP)

Trinity Public Utilities District (PUD)

Truckee Donnor Public Utilities District

Turlock Irrigation District (TID)

Ukiah, City of, Electric Utilities Division

Vernon, City of

Victorville Municipal Utilities Services

 

Generation, Transformation, and Transmission

ca transmission linesPower Grids are incredibly complex networks that carry electricity from generating facilities to points of end-usage, such as homes, offices, and factories. Simply put, power is generated by taking available energy from one source- such as the chemical energy in natural gas, or the mechanical energy in wind- and converting it into a current of electrical energy. Once this current is generated, it will flow along whatever pathway is presented to it, much like water flowing down-hill. It is the job of power utilities to provide and maintain the infrastructure that carries these electrons to end users.

Power is initially generated at a very high voltage. This is because high voltage currents dissipate less energy while being transported over long distances. However, the vast majority of appliances can't receive power at this voltage (and it is highly dangerous!), so the voltage must be successively reduced at Transforming Stations. In modern power grids, voltage is reduced two times: first at regional substations, and second down to the 120V necessary for home and commercial usage. This second step takes place in the transformer boxes you can see connected to power lines on utility poles.

Load Balancing

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While utility companies own their transmission assets, much of the power they transform and transmit is bought from private companies on the wholesale power market. This market is operated and managed by the California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAISO). CAISO ensures equal access to the state's power lines, forecasts electrical demand, accounts for operating reserves, and dispatches the lowest cost power plant unit to meet demand while ensuring enough transmission capacity is available to deliver the power. Visit their website to learn more.

Managing the supply and demand load on the grid is no easy task. Since power can't be stored in large volumes, supply must be adequately balanced with demand such that there is neither too little nor too much electricity on the grid at any given time. When electricity demand approaches the maximum power supply, utility companies must apportion power sparingly to prevent more serious shortages. Options include instituting rolling blackouts and bringing alternate power plants online.

Californian’s can help prevent the need for these measures. Energy conservation during times when we know demand will be high can make the difference between rolling blackouts and consistent power for everyone. Explore tips on how and when to save, or learn more about peak demand and what it means for California.