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Cut Energy Use, Mayor Pleads

Although crews are working around the clock, more than 25,000 L.A. residents were still without power as of Tuesday.

July 26, 2006|Juliet Chung and Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writers

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday once again asked residents to reduce their energy use as power outages continued to plague some of the hottest parts of the city.

Villaraigosa said 25,606 homes and businesses were without electricity as of Tuesday afternoon -- which he said was less than 2% of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's 1.4 million customers. Of those affected, about 6,700 had been without electricity for more than 30 hours.

"I want to assure everyone that we're doing everything possible to restore power to those without it as quickly as possible," Villaraigosa said, noting that repair crews, some from as far away as Utah, were working around the clock to replace broken transformers.

"Understand that this is not a supply issue ... it's a distribution issue," he said. "Transformers are going out across the city because of the record-breaking temperatures and the demand on electricity. That's why conservation is critical."

Maps provided by the DWP showed that outages continued to plague the San Fernando Valley -- traditionally the warmest part of the city -- but also occurred in Lincoln Heights, South Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills. The city of Los Angeles is in the somewhat unusual position of having enough power but not having a system that's always capable of distributing it. The problem is that the city's power system can't keep up with demand. On Monday, the city set a record for power usage when it surpassed the 6,000-megawatt level. While City Hall was kept well chilled on Tuesday -- it was 74 degrees in council chambers -- officials continued to ask residents to set their thermostats to 78 degrees and turn off all unnecessary appliances.

The City Council also quizzed DWP General Manager Ron Deaton for more than an hour on the outages and asked for an investigation of what had transpired.The problem is that 283 of the city's 2,500-plus transformers -- about 10% of transformers in the city -- have failed or blown up in recent days. Transformers take electricity from main power lines and reduce the voltage to the level needed by homes and businesses.

The problem is that many are decades old and they stop working when high levels of electricity are run through them for extended periods of time.

Deaton said the DWP is trying its best to replace the transformers but that the agency has some inventory shortages.

Outside the city, about 8,700 Southern California Edison customers remained without power as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, with most of them in the Inland Empire and parts of Orange County, said spokesman Steve Conroy. Earlier in the day the number was 15,000.

Southern California Edison had the same problem as the DWP: failed transformers. Conroy said the electric company had already replaced between 800 and 900 transformers and officials expected to do the same for up to 500 more.

He said Edison expected to make significant inroads Tuesday night as temperatures were finally expected to fall enough to somewhat reduce demand.

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