When Tony Haralambos got a notice from Southern California Edison last month at his City of Industry beverage distribution business, he went into a panic. The notice said that in five days, Edison was going to shut off his power for 12 hours to do grid maintenance.
The shutdown would start at 8 p.m. on a Monday evening and last until 8 a.m. the following morning, peak production hours for Haralambos Beverage Co.
“We take orders during the day, and then in the evening, we build our loads for next-day deliveries,” said Haralambos, the company’s co-owner and president. “Power is absolutely essential: We’ve got thousands of customers impacted if we can’t make deliveries the next morning.”
So to keep the business running, Haralambos bought special lanterns, rented generators and shifted work schedules so everyone would be on duty during the shutdown.
But 20 minutes before the shutdown was set to begin, an Edison subcontractor pulled into the parking lot with some startling news: The shutdown was postponed indefinitely due to some problems at a nearby substation.
“I was furious. It was all for nothing,” said Haralambos. He spent more than $20,000 to deal with the planned shutdown. “And even worse, at some point soon, I’m going to have to spend all that money again.”
So Haralambos contacted the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. It had recently received other complaints from businesses related to a planned outage in Altadena, an unincorporated community north of Pasadena.
So last week, Antonovich announced he was asking the state Public Utilities Commission to regulate planned outages by utilities.
“It is vital that the region’s largest energy supplier mitigate any negative impacts on local businesses by scheduling outages and routine maintenance during nonpeak times and providing adequate notice so that business owners can prepare,” Antonovich said in a statement to the Business Journal last week.
Edel Vizcarra, planning and public works deputy for Antonovich, said the PUC has a range of options it could consider. These include restricting planned outages during business hours, requiring utilities to give at least a week or two notice to businesses and residents, and even requiring utilities to give credits on power bills when a planned outage occurs.
In response to questions for this article, Southern California Edison gave a statement to the Business Journal saying that it conducts more than 20,000 planned maintenance outages a year to make necessary upgrades to the grid. The company, a subsidiary of Edison International of Rosemead, had previously announced it plans to spend $20 billion in grid upgrades over the next five years and tries to manage the related shutdowns.
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