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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 21, 2002

Thursday's power failures stump officials

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaiian Electric Co. officials yesterday said they still are not sure what caused two massive power failures on O'ahu Thursday afternoon and evening.

HECO spokesman Fred Kobashikawa said engineers were collecting data on the blackouts, which left nearly 40,000 of its 280,000 customers without power.

The first loss of power was reported at 2:51 p.m. and power was restored to most customers by 5 p.m. But about an hour later, electricity to many communities began to switch off again as problems were reported at generating plants at the city's HPOWER and HECO's Kahe facilities.

Earlier, the independent power generator AES Hawai'i at Campbell Industrial Park shut down. AES, which sells electricity to HECO, is the island's largest generator of power and the three plants combined provide about a third of O'ahu's electricity.

To protect the stability of the system, HECO began "load shedding," a process of systematically disconnecting customers around the island. Power was restored to most customers by 9 p.m.

Kobashikawa said the Kahe and HPOWER plants were back on line yesterday and AES was expected to resume generating power later in the day. Kobashikawa assured customers that there would be no more rolling blackouts last night.

"We have all of our generators on so we're in good shape and there's no need for any curtailment," he said.

The first power failure occurred as many residents watched the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine volleyball team's final four semifinal match against Stanford. The blackout also knocked out many traffic signals and caused a mess during the peak of rush-hour traffic.