CA heat: What to know about possible SMUD rolling blackouts

On a day forecast to become the hottest in city history, Sacramento Municipal Utility District said it “anticipates energy shortfalls” that may lead to rolling power outages Tuesday afternoon or evening, a measure SMUD has not taken in more than two decades.

The utility company in social media posts Tuesday morning said “record demand” has led to “critically tight power supplies across the state,” and that unless customers reduce consumption, especially from 4 pm through 9 pm, emergency one-hour rotating outages may be necessary.

A webpage set up by SMUD shows the utility company’s service area split up into 39 sections.

“SMUD would rotate outages by sections until the emergency is over. No section will be repeated until all 39 sections have been cycled through,” SMUD wrote in tweets.

“Should rotating outages become necessary, affected customers will be given as much advanced notice as possible, and no customer will be out of power for more than approximately one hour.”

Some Sacramento neighborhoods would not be affected by the potential outages, a SMUD spokesperson said, because their associated circuits cannot easily be toggled on and off remotely.

Those parts of the city include all of downtown, midtown, East Sacramento, the Sacramento State campus and some neighborhoods immediately surrounding those areas such as Curtis Park, Land Park, Oak Park, Colonial Manor, North City Farms and Brentwood, and are marked on the map as not included among the 39 rotating sections.

Will you lose power in a rotating outage?

Use this interactive map to find your neighborhood in the SMUD service area, which covers most of Sacramento County. If you are in an area marked Section 100, your neighborhood will not be subject to a rotating blackout in the event of an electricity shortfall. If your neighborhood is in a zone marked 1 to 39, you could experience a one-hour rolling outage. The lowest numbers will experience the outages first.

Source: SMUD

Those areas, marked on the online map as Section 100, would not be impacted by any rotating outages Tuesday, SMUD spokeswoman Lindsay VanLaningham confirmed.

“We did our best to carve out critical infrastructure whenever possible,” VanLaningham said in an emailed response. “However, some areas/circuits simply don’t have the ability to be easily switched on and off remotely.”

No rotating outages were in place as of 11 am SMUD said it would “exhaust every avenue” before imposing rotating outages, including purchasing power on the open market.

The utility company has not instituted rolling blackouts since 2001, during a statewide electricity crisis that preceded voters recalling then-Gov. Gray Davis.

SMUD is urging customers to conserve energy by limiting use of major appliances and “precooling” their homes before peak hours to avoid that scenario. SMUD advises residents to set thermostats to 75 degrees around mid-afternoon, then raise them to 82 degrees at 4 pm

Separately, California’s Independent System Operator issued a Stage 1 emergency alert from 4 pm to 9 pm Tuesday. The state averted blackouts Monday evening amid a Stage 2 emergency, which is a higher alert status than Stage 1.

SMUD is not part of the ISO grid and would not be included in ISO blackouts.

Residents are blasting air conditioning as an extraordinary heat wave blankets Northern California.

The National Weather Service as of late Tuesday morning forecast downtown Sacramento to reach 115 degrees before the end of the day, which would set a new all-time high in a record book that dates back to 1877.

Prior to Monday hitting 113 degrees, no September day had ever topped 109 in California’s capital.

The Bee’s Dale Kasler contributed to this story.

This story was originally published September 6, 2022 11:52 AM.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.

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