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Power turned off in California again

FOLSOM, California (CNN) -- California officials ordered a second straight day of rolling blackouts on Tuesday as power grid managers said state residents were ignoring pleas to conserve electricity.

The state Independent System Operator, which manages the state power grid, ordered a Stage Three power alert shortly after 3 p.m. as reserve capacity dropped below 1.5 percent of demand. Blackouts were imposed about 30 minutes later, and a second wave followed an hour after that.

Power grid managers ordered load interruptions that affected 167,000 customers in the first wave of blackouts as temperatures pushed into the 90s in some parts of the state. No estimates were immediately available on the number of customers affected by the second wave.

"There is not enough generation in the state to supply loads with the temperatures that we're seeing," said Jim McIntosh, director of grid operations for the ISO.

Most of the outages were for areas served by the state's two largest utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison.

Grid managers dropped back to a Stage Two power alert about two hours after ordering rolling blackouts.

On Monday afternoon, the ISO ordered rolling blackouts for more than an hour as unseasonably warm temperatures in the Southwest prompted Californians to turn up their air conditioners. In addition, several power plants are off-line for maintenance or repairs.

CNN's John King reports on how the Bush administration's energy policy may affect gasoline prices and California's power woes (May 8)

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California Gov. Gray Davis urged state residents to cut back their electricity consumption by as much as 10 percent. But McIntosh said Californians were using about 1,000 megawatts more power Tuesday than Monday.

Monday's power cuts affected more than 88,000 customers of California's two largest utilities, SoCal Edison and PGamp;E. Other customers of San Diego Gas and Electric and smaller utilities in the Los Angeles area were also affected.

California officials expect the state to be plagued with outages this summer, and have urged federal officials for help with the ongoing problem. The Bush administration has so far refused most aid.

President Bush has urged federal agencies to cut energy consumption, but Vice President Dick Cheney has said conservation efforts aren't enough -- and has criticized the state for failing to add generating capacity. (More on Cheney's comments)

"They've got a whole complex of problems that are caused by relying only on conservation and not doing anything about the supply side of the equation," Cheney told CNN in a Tuesday interview.

Cheney is leading a White House task force on energy that is expected to urge expanded oil exploration efforts and the construction of hundreds of new power plants.

Davis told CNN on Monday that Washington needs to act to control the "extraordinary" prices of wholesale power.

"I'm taking care of the rest of it," Davis said. "We are building more plants and we are conserving, but prices under the law we passed in 1996 are exclusively a matter for the federal government to resolve -- and they've dropped the ball big time."

California's two largest utilities have been hammered by a 1995 electricity deregulation law that capped the power companies' ability to raise rates. When wholesale power costs skyrocketed, both SoCal Edison and PG&E suffered billions of dollars in losses, and PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in April.

The state has been buying power on long-term contracts with money from a $10 billion bond issue the Legislature approved in February. And the state Public Utilities Commission ordered rate increases in March, with built-in breaks for those who use less power.

The legislation drew protests from consumer advocates, who say the bill amounts to a taxpayer-financed bailout of the two companies -- both of whom supported the deregulation bill at the time.

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  • Deregulation - What this means to you - Electricity Market Issues
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System Conditions - The California ISO
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California Utilities Emergency Association
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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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