San Diego Could Face Summer Power Outages Due to Gas Leak

Parts of Southern California might face 14 days of electrical power disruptions, leaders from key energy agencies said Tuesday.

A natural gas blowout in the Los Angeles area could lead to summer blackouts in San Diego. 

Parts of Southern California might face 14 days of electrical power disruptions, leaders from key energy agencies said Tuesday.

The dramatic pictures of the leak and evacuation of Porter Ranch began in October and left the huge Aliso Canyon gas storage field down to a fifth of its normal capacity of fuel. 

Officials say it could be months before the storage facility is back online. So why should we care? The impact of that leak could make its way to the light switch in your house. 

The gas that was lost in those leaks helps supply 17 different power plants in the LA area.

The chairman of the California Energy Commission said Tuesday that a partial shutdown could lead to power cuts for up to 14 days as demand skyrockets during the heat of summer.

If they feel the pinch, we could also feel it here in San Diego. 

"It could ultimately trick down to us," said Allison Torres, spokesperson for San Diego Gas & Electric. 

"A lot of electric generation is fueled by natural gas," said Torres."If we’re going to have some of those really hot days, that’s going to affect the power flow." 

At this point, SDG&E is not sure if the blackouts will reach their customers. But when the grid is squeezed by a lack of natural gas, the impact could be widespread.

"As Los Angeles goes, we go," said Michael Shames, "If they have outages, it’s likely we’re going to have some."

Shames is a utility company watchdog and says this leak is a lesson to us all.

"The Southern California electric grid is interconnected," said Shames. "We’re dependent upon Los Angeles and to some extent Los Angeles is dependent on San Diego."

At this point SDG&E can't say for sure when and if a natural gas shortage will disrupt our local power supply.

But it seems likely hot weather or any high demand could quickly exceed our power supply.

"We are going to have days during the summer where we may have blackouts or brownouts and people need to be ready for the fact that the electric supply will be unreliable," Shames said.

That means consumers need to think about a back-up plan, from generators to batteries.

Recommendations include "strong energy conservation programs," such as the state's Flex Alert campaign, which warns residents and businesses to reduce energy consumption on high-demand days.

Customers can sign up for alerts, issued by the California Independent System Operator.

It is estimated the leak, active from Oct. 23 to Feb. 18, released as much as 100,000 tons of methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, and an undetermined amount of different hydrocarbons, sulfur compounds, and other contaminants. 

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