Hot Sun

Alice Walton
April 5, 2016

State officials warn that Southern California could face as many as 14 days of scheduled blackouts this summer because of depleted reserves of natural gas caused by the massive leak in Aliso Canyon.

The canyon in the hills above Porter Ranch is a crucial gas storage facility, supplying 17 power plants in the Los Angeles Basin. But the four-month leak that began in October left the facility at one-fifth of its capacity and new injections of gas have been prohibited until all of its wells have passed comprehensive tests.

“These pipelines also cannot transport gas fast enough to meet the hour-by-hour or changing demands of power plants during the summer when electricity demand peaks,” said Mark Rothleder, vice president of the California Independent System Operator, one of four agencies that warned of the blackouts in a draft report released Tuesday.

Millions of energy customers could be affected in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

In addition to the summer blackouts, the region could face an additional eight to 18 days of outages later in the year, according to the report by Rothleder’s agency and the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The blackouts would probably be similar to those that the region experienced during the energy crisis more than a decade ago. Utilities distributed the outages by turning off one block of power for a short period of time, then moving the cutoff to a different block, based on a technical analysis.

The possible service interruptions prompted the four agencies to draw up an action plan with 18 recommendations that they believe could reduce the possibility of blackouts. Regulatory approval will be needed to carry out some of the recommendations. Others will be costly fixes.

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