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UPDATE: Alameda Blackouts Ordered Due to NCPA ‘Misunderstanding’

The Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, September 7, clarifying that rolling blackouts ordered in Alameda, Lodi, Santa Clara (Silicon Valley Power), Palo Alto, Healdsburg, and Ukiah on September 6 were due to a NCPA dispatcher’s “misunderstanding” of an Energy Emergency Alert issued by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

“Yesterday at 5:17 p.m., the CAISO issued an Energy Emergency Alert 3 (EEA3) order due to unprecedented heat conditions across the state. At 5:53 p.m., NCPA’s dispatch center was contacted by the CAISO with an order our dispatcher understood as a request to shed 46.02 MW of load to help prevent widespread outages,” the statement said. “In turn, our dispatcher immediately undertook the process of meeting our commitment to the state by working with our member systems at the Cities of Alameda, Lodi, Santa Clara (Silicon Valley Power), Palo Alto, Healdsburg, and Ukiah to temporarily turn off power to some customers in those communities.”

“Once the outages had been initiated,” the NCPA statement continued, “our dispatcher contacted the CAISO to inform them that the curtailment action had been undertaken, and was then notified there had been a misunderstanding of the initial order.”

Some 1,400 Alamedans lost power from about 6:05 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6, when Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) instituted rolling blackouts following the NCPA order.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers across the estuary in Oakland and across the bay in San Francisco had not subjected to blackouts, which led some AMP customers to question why outages were necessary in the much smaller city of Alameda.

Alameda Post - map of areas affected by rolling blackouts on Sep. 6, 2022
The two highlighted circuits were subjected to a rolling blackout on Wednesday, September 6, 2022. Alameda Municipal Power map.

Rolling blackouts not AMP’s decision

The Alameda utility had no choice in the matter, according to a statement posted the morning of September 7 on the AMP website and on social media. “At about 5:45 p.m., after the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) issued a level 3 power emergency, the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) instructed Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) to begin load shedding operations,” the statement said. “NCPA is AMP’s electric load scheduler and is responsible for communicating CAISO directives to many of the public utilities in Northern California, including Alameda Municipal Power. If NCPA instructs utilities to drop load, AMP must act.”

Alameda Post - Emergency Alert from CalOES
This emergency alert was sent to mobile phones at the same time as the rolling blackouts.

NCPA, a not-for-profit joint powers authority, also ordered power outages in other member cities, including Lodi. Lodi officials said on the city’s Facebook page that the “load shed order to Lodi was in error,” according to a report in the Lodi News-Sentinel. “We heard from NCPA at 8:30 p.m. that the load shed order to Lodi was in error,” the city said. “NCPA informed Lodi Electric that there was a communication error between them and Cal ISO that caused NCPA to issue the order to Lodi and other NCPA members.”

Officials in Alameda did not state that the blackout order was in error, but the AMP statement did indicate that the utility is working to avoid “unnecessary outages” in the future.

“In conjunction with NCPA working with CAISO, we are working to clarify procedures to ensure unnecessary outages do not occur moving forward,” the AMP statement said. “We thank you all for your patience and support as we navigate these dynamic situations that change frequently.”

AMP Public Utilities Board president Jerry Serventi serves as vice chair of the NCPA.

Copy Editor Liz Barrett writes about the community for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Liz-Barrett/.

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