California avoided rolling blackouts for two decades. What went wrong on the grid?
For nearly two decades, California skated past one heat wave after another without having to resort to deliberate rolling blackouts — including one horrible stretch that killed 140 people in 2006.
The state’s electricity winning streak ran out Friday night.
For more than three hours, amid 100-degree weather in much of the state, hundreds of thousands of Californians were subjected to one-hour blackouts designed to keep the electricity grid from completely melting down. It marked the first rolling blackouts in California since the 2001 energy crisis, when the state was victimized by rogue energy traders from Enron Corp. and other companies that withheld power to jack up prices.
Late Saturday the ISO instituted a second straight night of rotating outages.
This time it was a matter of too much hot weather overwhelming the system, according to the California Independent System Operator, which runs the grid.
“The biggest factor was the heat,” said ISO spokeswoman Anne Gonzales.
Yet as hot as it was Friday, the demand for electricity peaked at just 46,800 megawatts — a few thousand megawatts shy of the record 50,270 in July 2006, when Californians were literally dying in the heat but blackouts were avoided.