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Officials Still in the Dark About What Caused Blackout

The massive outage in early September left an estimated 7 million people in the dark, too.

Power industry officials said Wednesday they still don't have an answer for why the actions of one utility worker in Arizona triggered a cascade of outages that affected an estimated 7 million California residents—including all of San Diego County—on Sept. 8.

Their testimony came in a hearing conducted by the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce and the Joint Committee on Emergency Response at San Diego City Hall.

Mark Maher, chief executive officer of the Salt Lake City-based Western Electrical Coordinating Council, said what happened that day was known, and the timeline was established.

"The outstanding question we have to pursue is why this happened,'' Maher said. "We know what failed and in what sequence, but we don't know why.''

Stephen Berberich, president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator, said the complex transmission system that carries power between various utilities should have absorbed the singular event of a worker in Arizona who switched lines out of sequence.

"This blackout should not have happened,'' Berberich said.

Instead, 20 separate events took place within 11 minutes to cause the widespread power outage, he said.

Among them, according to Berberich:

-- a power plant in northern Mexico stopped operating, but it is unknown whether that was in reaction to the Arizona event;

-- three power plants operated by the Imperial Irrigation District shut down in rapid succession;

-- the energy flow between Arizona and California was cut off; and

-- a transmission line south of San Onofre that connects San Diego Gas & Electric with Southern California Edison switched off, plunging San Diego County into a massive blackout.

The power industry officials said it could take anywhere from two months to one year to find out why the outage became as big as it did.

"Unfortunately, I feel a little less informed and a little confused,'' Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, said after their presentation.

The Western Electrical Coordinating Council assists various power system operators with the flow of electricity across 14 states, two provinces in Canada and part of Baja California Norte, according to Maher. Cal-ISO does the same within the state.

San Diego Gas & Electric President and CEO Michael Niggli credited customers for the return of power within 12 hours instead of two days, as originally estimated.

Niggli said unplugging air conditioners and other energy-hogging electronics allowed them to restart their system faster than expected.

-City News Service

Susan Brinchman October 27, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Of course we are underinformed! How can the promoters of the federally-funded-to-the-tune-of-$3.4-billion-dollar-smart-grid admit that with your Recovery Act taxpayer dollars, SDG&E has created a monster that harms people physically AND doesn't work? One more reason to dump the California utility monopolies and corrupt officials at the CPUC. Either #1 They really don't know (and that means incompetence) and the new smart grid system is defective that they are building or #2 They are lying and covering up that the new smart grid system is defective that they are building . The only possible conclusion: The new smart grid system is defective that they are building. Our nation and every person in our locale are now at risk. Those who would prefer to stick their heads in the sand need to wake up and see the problem, including the elected officials whose campaign funds are lined with utility contributions (or would like to have it be so). No one is looking out for our interests here. The multi-nationally owned utilities are completely and utterly money-driven, uncaring about American safety, and incompetent, making massive errors that are causing devastating health effects from smart meters and wireless infrastructure of the smart grid, and these devices and technologies are DEFECTIVE, they were hastily developed and released, in order to obtain the initial 100 million in Recovery Act funding in CA. www.electrosmogprevention.org; www.smartmeterdangers.org

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