Bay Area businesses already struggling during COVID-19 prepare for possible rolling outages

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Struggling Bay Area businesses prepare for potential blackouts
Bay Area businesses already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic are even more stressed from the possibility of rolling power outages from PG&E during the statewide heat wave.

DUBLIN, Calif. (KGO) -- The Hussein family made a stop at Mirchi Café and Masala Pizza in Dublin before heading to San Francisco, hoping to escape the inland heat.

"We are going to San Francisco, so just stopped by to get something to eat," says Ray Hussein. He and his family live in Stockton.

Mirchi's chef and owner, Lisa Ahmad, knows the fans in the patio area will help during this heat wave, since outdoor dining is the only option during the pandemic. But she fears now another problem: rolling blackouts.

RELATED: Without energy conservation, rotating power outages 'likely' amid dangerous heat wave, CA ISO says

"You are doing about $600 an hour, if you are on a (roll). If not, you might lose about $800 within those two hours potentially," explains Ahmad. "It is a lot. Trust me. It all adds up. And we need every penny to pay our employees, to keep the lights on (and) to keep the doors open."

The restaurant's popularity helps with online orders. But Ahmad says a power outage doesn't just impact sales. There are also the costs associated with buying and preparing the food.

"Add the labor cost to that product. It's come through a whole process in the restaurant and that costs money. So, it all adds up to more loss," she says.

The California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, operates California's energy market. They issued a statewide flex alert, which is a call for people to save energy.

VIDEO: What is a Flex Alert?

So a Flex Alert has been issued in California amid a heat wave, but what exactly does that mean?

CAISO says it reached a Stage 2 Emergency on Saturday. Stage 3 would trigger power cuts, in which case PG&E would initiate the rotating outages. Those could last up to four hours.

"And we only get a 10 minute notification before that action needs to be completed. So, unfortunately, we cannot notify exact customers of when or if their power is going to be out," says Katie Allen, a spokesperson for PG&E.

Allen points out, if consumers can conserve energy, it could prevent rolling outages or reduce the amount of time the power is cut.

In Contra Costa County, Sal Helmand has been operating 360 Gourmet Burritos in Walnut Creek for the past 26 years.

Helmand says business is down about 35% due to COVID-19. He adds, if he has to close his restaurant, even for a few hours, because of the power outages, that is more lost revenue and wasted food.

"It has a huge impact on us because if we have no notice, everything that we prepare in our refrigerator and that we use for that day, it will all go to waste," he says.

RELATED: Major heat wave coming to Bay Area for Labor Day weekend: Here's how hot it will be

Holiday heatwave: It's going to be hot in the Bay Area over Labor Day Weekend! Dangerous heat on Sunday and excessive heat on Monday is prompting a Statewide Flex Alert.

Since there is no warning for when the power may go or who will be impacted, it is forcing Helmand to scale back.

"So, as orders come in, we will make enough just for those orders and then kind of being on standby, and seeing what kind of impact this is going to have on us, and go from there," says Helmand.

PG&E recently released a page to show the order of rotation in which the rolling outageswill likely proceed, if ordered by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to turn off power. To find your rotating block number, use the lookup tool on the website here.