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Head of DWP warns of blackouts due to Porter Ranch gas leak

The sun shines over towers carrying electrical lines.
The sun shines over towers carrying electrical lines.
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The fallout from the four-month long Porter Ranch natural gas leak continues.

The leak has been plugged, but the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility near Porter Ranch is now mostly offline, and the next problem could be electricity. That's because several power plants in the region rely on natural gas to generate electricity.

State energy agencies and the L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP) warned yesterday that Southern California residents could experience power outages during as many as 32 days over the coming year. Fourteen of those days could fall during the summer months.

Marcie Edwards, General Manager for LADWP, joined Take Two to discuss the draft plan for reducing the possibility of power outages.

Interview highlights:

On the factors that lead to outages

"There are a significant number of factors. It's what makes it very difficult to project. Is the peak day going to be on a weekend? Well that's an entirely different scenario. Are there other pieces of gas company equipment that's out that's going to further limit us? We could only go with the law of averages in making these assumptions. What it will come down to is real-time day [conditions]."

On whether there will be advance warning of blackouts

"It depends on the operating conditions in place at the time. The [Southern California] Gas Company is talking with all of their non-core customers, the electric generators, and we're all trying to work out, 'Can you give us any warning? Or are we just going to pick up the phone and you're going to tell us sorry you don't have any more gas?'"

On whether the cost of electricity will go up

"Not necessarily. I think everyone at this point is going to track any increased costs related to how they're operating their power systems because electric companies didn't cause this problem. The Aliso Canyon facility is solely owned by Southern California Gas and maintained by Southern California Gas. And I personally think it would be incredibly unfair to expect electric companies to pick up the costs associated with the loss of the Aliso Canyon facility."

On what consumers should keep in mind about their electricity use

"I think everyone needs to bear in mind, when it's a significantly hot day, particularly after we've had a couple of hot days, the electricity systems are stressed. These peak days only happen a couple of times a year and if we experience additional problems with gas supply on those days, we could certainly have problems. So typical conservation behavior, you remember all the old adages, give your appliances the afternoon off, all that stuff still stands. Everyone should work hard not only to make systematic changes, changing out lightbulbs, things to reduce your overall footprint, but be extremely sensitive during the peak hot periods of the day."

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.