January 17, 2001
Contact: PG&E News Department (415) 973-5930
EDITORS: Please do not use "Pacific Gas and Electric" or "PG&E" when referring to PG&E Corporation or its National Energy Group. The PG&E National Energy Group is not the same company as Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the utility, and is not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. Customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company do not have to buy products or services from the National Energy Group in order to continue to receive quality regulated services from Pacific Gas and Electric Company.


Today, the California Independent System Operation (CAISO), ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Company to begin implementing rotating outages throughout Northern California in order to maintain electric service to customers that provide essential public safety services, such as hospitals and fire stations. The CAISO has initiated a Stage 3 electric emergency due to a lack of generation resources available in California and reduced imports from the Pacific Northwest. The CAISO reports more than 11,000 megawatts of electric generation capacity off-line due to planned and unplanned power plant outages.

The CAISO ordered rotating block outages to begin at 11:50 a.m. The rotating block outages will begin with customers on computerized circuits in Blocks 3 and 4, and proceed under the direction of the CAISO. The order asks the utility to reduce demand by 400 megawatts, which will impact approximately 200,000 PG&E customers. Municipal utilities and irrigation districts in Northern California have also been ordered to reduce demand by 100 megawatts.

The maximum duration of the controlled outages for any individual customer is expected to be 60-90 minutes.

Each customer's rotating outage block number is shown on their monthly bill. Rotating outage blocks are numbered from 1 through 14. Essential services, such as hospitals, fire departments, police stations, and other vital government functions will not be impacted at this level of rotating block outages.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company urges everyone to be very careful during times of power outages. It is possible that traffic lights will not be operating, and congestion on streets could lead to dangerous situations. Pedestrians and motorists are urged to exercise caution. Treat all uncontrolled intersections as a four-way stop.

If your power goes out:

  • Turn off major electric equipment and appliances to avoid a surge when power is restored.

  • Do not use candles because of the risk of fire.

  • Never use the stove, range, or other gas or propane appliance for heating.

  • Be sure to leave at least one light on so you know when power is restored, then you can turn on appliances and equipment one at a time.

  • Have battery-operated flashlights with fresh batteries on hand. Pacific Gas and Electric Company asks customers to be prepared and stay informed during this crisis. Some tips to follow during a Stage 3 emergency:

  • Reduce electric consumption. Turn off air conditioners, the use of washer, dryers, dishwasher, and other major appliances should be postponed.

  • Turn off unused computer monitors and printers and all unnecessary lighting.

  • Refrain from cooking until after the emergency is over.

  • Monitor radio and television news to stay abreast of curtailment schedules, which are subject to sudden change.

  • Agricultural pumping should be minimized and confined to periods outside the morning and evening peak demand periods.

The CAISO directs utility companies to initiate rotating outages when the electric reserve margin falls beneath 1.5 percent. The reserve margin is the percentage of capacity above customer demand. The CAISO calls for rotating outages throughout California to minimize the possibility of uncontrolled, prolonged outages that could affect widespread parts of the state.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company thanks its customers for their cooperation during this emergency. If customers have specific questions, they can contact the company at 1-800-PGE-5000.

The CAISO is the agency responsible for managing California's power grid. For more information on the CAISO or the Stage 3 electric emergency, please visit their website at or call 1-888-516-6397.