Will blackouts darken Calif. this summer?

May 1, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

California could be headed into another “perfect storm” of coincidental events that may result in an electricity shortage during the hot months of July, August and September.

San Diego Gas & Electric is reported to be finalizing an agreement with the U.S. Navy to reduce power use at the Navy’s San Diego-area bases in the event of a power shortage this summer. 

The Navy is SDG&E’s largest customer. The agreement being arranged with the Navy would free up power to offset grid losses due to the unplanned shut down of nuclear power plants in California. This is the first time such an arrangement has been made with San Diego-area military bases.

Of concern is the long-term outage of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station due to mechanical problems. San Onofre can generate power for 1.4 million homes. Additionally, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant along the central coast of California has been shut down, reportedly due to jellyfish clogging the ocean water intake used to cool the boilers. 

Authorities disagree in newspapers about the risk of rolling blackouts this summer. But the Independent System Operatorserves as the central operator for the state electric grid.  The ISO said that, while statewide reserves are fine, local and regional shortages could emerge. Of particular concern is the San Diego area due to the San Onofre shutdown.

San Diego Hit by Blackout Nov. 8, 2011

The same area was hit by a blackout on Nov. 8, 2011, reportedly due to human error by a utility worker at an electrical substation in Arizona. Some authorities say that, even with the error, the grid should have not failed. 

A report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and National Electric Reliability Commission as to the causes of the blackout has not been released yet. Fortunately, the Nov. 8 outage was contained within the San Diego region, although the problem started in another region to the east.  The electric grid is set up to contain outages within each region. That apparently failed in the San Diego blackout.

The sequence of events is known. But if the cause cannot be found, this will add a further risk of uncertainty to the San Diego region. A fact in the Nov. 8 outage is that failure could not be contained in the Arizona grid and spread to San Diego. This raises a question as to whether other areas of California than San Diego could be susceptible to rolling blackouts this summer, even if power reserves are ample. 

Power Outages Have Risen 350 Percent Since 2007

Power outages affecting 50,000 people or more have been growing over the past decade in North America.  But outages really took off from 2007 to 2011 when outages increased from 100 to 350 per year.

Electric companies have interruptible power service agreements with large industries to shut down during blackouts so that homes, hospitals and transit systems are not affected.  Large industrial users of electricity serve as shadow power plants when they shut down and allow power to be freed up for residential customers.

With California reportedly losing at least 254 businesses in 2011 and 204 in 2010, according to one tally, the number of industries with interruptible service agreements has probably fallen. This should have freed up power possibly to offset any losses from the shutdown of San Onofre.  But that doesn’t seem to have sufficiently made enough additional power capacity available.

Events Have Turned Fast on Power Planners

Southern California is working fast to get back into service two gas-fired power plants in Huntington Beach that were mothballed last year.  This indicates how fast events have turned around on electric capacity planners. 

To comply with regulations, both of the decommissioned Huntington Beach gas power plants had their gas lines severed and three-foot holes were cut in the boilers.

SDG&E is also accelerating the build out of the Sunrise Power Transmission Link into San Diego.  This will bring 1,000 megawatts of power from Imperial County to San Diego County over a 230/500 Kilovolt power line spanning 117-miles.  One problem with this new transmission line is that the electrons transmitted will be from renewable energy projects in Imperial County that cannot be counted on in a blackout.

Wind and solar power plants cannot be depended on for base load power in the event of an outage or rolling blackouts.  California is in the process of shifting 33 percent of its power to alternative energy such as wind and solar power.

A power outage may be a trigger for any civil disturbances anticipated for this summer prior to national elections. The Los Angeles Times has been running a series of suggestive articles on prior riots.  The San Diego and Los Angeles areas could be in for a long hot summer.


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  1. Tom Tanton
    Tom Tanton 1 May, 2012, 09:13

    During the electricity crisis of 2000, there was serious discussion of bringing into port (San Diego) some of the nuke fleet to be a supply of power.
    Perfect storm? Yes, but in both cases anthropogenic for sure, and easily anticipated.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 09:38

    I woul rather have black outs than live in the shadow of the nations worst nuke pile– San Onofre. SONGS has leaked, discharged and safety violated its way into infamy. The ancient mess was first set to go off line forever in 2013— now after extensions it still goes on and ALL of the spent waste is stored on site! The 2010 batch discharges into the atmosphere and ocean were the highest yet. The plant leaks radioactive material into the ground below it (well documented), and is now off line because of massive failures in the cooling system which has created even more leaks….. of course SDGandE is fighting to have the mess re lit and run forever.

    No longitudinal health cancer study has yet ben done on SONGS in the modern.

    We live in a very stupid country.

    Reply this comment
  3. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 1 May, 2012, 10:41

    To Mr. Steele:

    But is the radiation from San Onofre greater than background radiation from nature and from medical scannings?

    You don’t mention any footnotes from reputable unbiased sources for your claims.


    Reply this comment
  4. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 10:58


    I don’t know.

    The totality of failures there is remarkably high in addition to the constant safety violations though.

    The initial discharge permitted by statute is zero.

    There again is no longitudinal cancer study for the region. So we just don’t know about chronic exposure to small doses. Of course studies from around the world confirm increase cancer rates living within 3 miles of these plants.

    The original permit allowed zero storage of waste at the site. Now San Clemente is a bone fide nuke radiation dump site.

    The precautionary principle dictates we are in way over our head….

    Reply this comment
  5. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 11:00

    Do you seriously want cites to the studies regarding ca. danger and the plants? I can Google that for you if you need it— it’s pretty widely accepted Wayne.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 11:03

    Wayne– Have a Google look at the OCR article a few weeks ago that detailed just the 2010 published discharges from the plant into the sea and into the atmosphere….Whoa—- mind blowing…..

    Reply this comment
  7. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 11:07

    ….by the way……a longitudinal study is in the works, I think the NAS is calling for it. Of course the utility is fighting it. When it does come…and it will take awhile of course….if the study confirms what GB, France and Germany already know……real estate in South Orange County will plummet given the disclosure requirements. The little power the thing generates vs. the cost/benee/risk is such a no brainer— hard to believe Republicans are not all over this.

    Reply this comment
  8. queeg
    queeg 1 May, 2012, 11:20

    While we fear nuke power issues….your about to witness the start of cap and trade….contorted rationing or pay fees for producing….

    If you produce anything or distribute things you will pay…..you bad person!!!!

    Reply this comment
  9. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 1 May, 2012, 11:29

    You just have to laugh at these activist hand-wringers who demand that the San Onofre nuke plant get shut down. These idiots have no idea of the ramifications of their demand. They just blow more steam from their spout holes without analyzing the situation.

    It takes power to move power. With San Onofre shut down it will be even more difficult to import the power needed to meet energy demands in San Diego. There is a reason that the US Navy has been forced into an energy conservation scheme. Otherwise we would have routine blackouts for hours at a time like they do in Romania. Try to run an economy with that!!! heh.

    Nuclear power is still the safest and cheapest form of energy we have. Not one man or woman in America has his or her life from a nuclear energy accident or meltdown. Yet tens of thousands have lost their lives through electric shock. Do these hand-wringers complain about that??? Nope! Silent as church mice.

    The large majority of energy needs are generated through nuclear power in France. The french have never had a major problem. Ever.

    The japanese were idiots for building a power plant on a coastline that had direct line vulnerabilities to known major fault lines offshore. If you look at a coastal map of San Onofre and of Fukashima you would see there are MAJOR geological and land formation difference between the 2 sites. What happened at Fukashima could NEVER occur at San Onofre.

    How do these activist hand-wringer propose to fill the gap in our energy needs? Wind turbines on top of the Santa Ana mountains? heh. Look how well that’s worked out in No. California. NOT! Solar energy? Forget it. We cannot harness the suns rays to generate our 10% of our energy needs and it would be cost prohibitive at this time. Hopefully we will be able to advance with solar power in the future. But it’s not an option today.

    These beanheads want you to pay $8/gal for gas and $300/mo for electricity, folks. They are selling you a bill of goods. Ignore them!

    If you’re scared of nuclear power move to Fargo or DesMoines. Just leave California and stop trying to turn water into wine. You are going to scare the State into bankrupcy and people will be living like third world peasants with flashlights and candles to see in the dark!!!

    Reply this comment
  10. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 11:43

    Activist hand wringer? Oh my……..smoke out the dolts!

    We need more power Scotty— to drive our corpulent SUV’s!

    Reply this comment
  11. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 1 May, 2012, 12:06

    Address the points communicated in the comment….or go take a long walk off a short pier.

    Reply this comment
  12. queeg
    queeg 1 May, 2012, 13:06

    Who has time to retort to epistles rivaling Cotton Mather’s verbose puritan sermons….

    Embrace Teddy….he is too busy and productive for laborious rebuttals!!!

    Reply this comment
  13. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 1 May, 2012, 13:47

    You don’t have the gray matter to actually debate. All you have is pathetic innane one-liners that rarely have anything to do with the topic at hand. Plus, you probably have the reading speed and comprehension of a rhesus monkey. No wonder you despise comments that provide a thorough analysis of the problem. By the time you finished you forgot what the hell the discussion was about. Why don’t you rent a oar boat and paddle your way to the shores of Japan, Captain??? Send us tweets along the way about your masterful boatswain skills. 😀

    Reply this comment
  14. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 1 May, 2012, 14:52

    Beezyboob— I wrote 10 sentences in the above posts— do your own work sleepy troll….

    Carry on Queeg.

    Reply this comment
  15. queeg
    queeg 2 May, 2012, 08:22

    Teddy…for your eyes only…..

    Forgive…some do not know…they require our compassion through signing them in for assisted living…..humor them….be compassionate though….

    And keep those short posts coming…..

    Reply this comment
  16. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 2 May, 2012, 08:31

    Don’t forget to give generously to the intellectually challanged and to the village idiots too. For they have a story too however trivial it might be. 😀

    Reply this comment
  17. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 2 May, 2012, 11:34

    Well said Queeg—- I try to be compassionate but it is a work in progress. I shouldn’t get too upset when the little trolls don’t read my content, or, frankly can’t understand it. They may not have anyone to read it aloud to them.

    Reply this comment
  18. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 2 May, 2012, 13:10

    While several of our readers throw brickbats at one another, you have all missed the most astonishing paragraph:

    “To comply with regulations, both of the decommissioned Huntington Beach gas power plants had their gas lines severed and three-foot holes were cut in the boilers.”

    Mull that over for a bit. On an insanity scale of 1-10, that rates an 11. We have all heard of (and can be understandably sympathetic towards) weaponry being destroyed after a war. (Swords into plowshares and all that). But this is regulatory malfeasance. It’s not just good enough to decommission a plant. You have to actively vandalize it? What regulator thought this had to be written into the decommissioning standards? Who approved such a thing?

    I swear this might be the most stupid thing I have ever read.

    There is no hope for the S.S. California. Abandon ship.

    Reply this comment
  19. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 2 May, 2012, 13:52

    Abandon ship???

    They said that about the Titanic 100 years ago and we are still getting perfectly good cups and saucers from the wreck! Shhhhheeeeeeeeesh.

    Seriously— you Repub’s are in a constant hissy fit.

    Reply this comment
  20. queeg
    queeg 2 May, 2012, 14:04

    Relax liberals are compassionate, very open and tolerant….never ever violent….and really help the poor…..just ask them.

    Reply this comment
  21. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 3 May, 2012, 19:36

    Even Dana Rorbacker– realizes that San Onofre is dangerous and should not be relicensed


    Reply this comment
  22. queeg
    queeg 3 May, 2012, 22:32

    Nukers only have to be wrong once.

    Those old tubes at San Clemente must be imported from KIEV…

    Reply this comment
  23. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 3 May, 2012, 22:59

    Queeg– Seriously, when even the dumbest guy in Congress(Dana R.) sees the issue you’d think even the tea baggers would follow along…

    Reply this comment
  24. Tom Flynn
    Tom Flynn 5 May, 2012, 18:01

    This is just another sad story of just how badly the Califonia state paid thinktanks operate. For decades it has been proven with million of dollars of taxpayer funding how easy it is to reduce the major energy demand ( that accounts for 30% of the summer energy spike) spiker…home air conditioner.

    All the eggheads at these state run thinktanks want to do with endless million or dollars is to write and rewrite( AKA update) endlee reports and studies they rarely evern do anything that really helps the average JOE.

    By using evaporative precooling of the typical air cooled condenser on most home air conditioners you can reduce the energy use by 30% and boost cooling effect ( BTU/hour) by 30%

    Rather than to attempt to use that monster cenetal air conditioner to cool the entire home one could use a much smaller ” packaged air condition” AKA window air conditioner to cool just the area that is atually occupied.

    I have proven over 3 years of testing that using less than 1/2 the power of a hand held hair dryer ( 700 wats) it is possible to cool a single occupied zone.

    In Tucson where we have hit 100 F last week we can cool of a rather large area of 3 rooms to 65F using just 1200 Watts of power .this will cost us less than $0.15 per hour.

    The poor fools who trusted California thinktanks to save them this summer are in for a very hot summer.

    The best part is we can buy a portable gasoline generator to power up to 12000 BTU of cooling for about $200. This would keep cool a very large living area.

    Some Californina utilited like PG&E will be charging about $1 per kilowatt hour thsi summer about 10 times what I pay in Tucson.

    I left California just in time before it melts down woth sky high taxes regulation and no service for what the taxpayers are charges for.

    Utility companied proved decades ago that using a low cost precooler was more cost effective than to upgrade to a high SEER air conditioner.

    Funny for less than $100 the typical home owner could precool the old low SEER central ac… but the powers at be want you to pay $1,000’s to buy a new high SEER air conditioner.

    These high SEER ac units really fall off in cooling performance at over 90F they are designed to pass the SEER test that is done at just 80F

    When we precooled a typical low EER window air conditioner unit typical 9.8 EER we gewt a EER of 14 and we get a super cold blast of 45F air into the room even at an outside air temperature of 100F

    California you are in for a summer of hurt!!

    Reply this comment
  25. Paula
    Paula 23 June, 2013, 22:01

    It’s very black in pismo right now:D candle light dinner at PizMo pizzeria!

    Reply this comment

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