Marblehead Light warns of possible blackouts

The Marblehead Municipal Light Department talked about winter electricity reliability concerns on Tuesday and how residents can deal with rolling blackouts or load sheds.

General Manager Joseph T. Kowalik said rolling blackouts or load sheds are a low possibility, and not a reason to panic. This situation is caused by an inadequate supply of natural gas for New England to meet the increased needs for home heating and electric power generation. 

“ISO New England has advised the region that New England faces a precarious fuel supply risk that could necessitate emergency actions if a severe prolonged cold snap hits the region this winter,” a statement from ISO New England explained. ISO New England is a regional transmission organization serving Massachusetts.

An example of a load shed plan in Marblehead could be, according to Kowalik: On a continuing third cold day when the home heating and electric power use reaches its peak, the ISO New England will contact the Marblehead Municipal Light Department to shed 10 percent of the load.

At that time, 10 percent of Marblehead will lose its heat and electricity during cold temperatures, on a rolling basis, which is called a rolling blackout.  On two-to-three-hour intervals throughout town, two to three circuits are shut off during each interval. Each circuit should be out for two hours over an 18-hour period.

There are 22 electric circuits in Marblehead. ISO New England will give an advanced warning at least one or more days ahead.

The department advises residents to register for CodeRED now and sign up for texts, emails, and voicemails, as it will be the line of communication during blackouts. The department will use CodeRED to communicate to customers which circuits will be shut off, and how long they will be shut off.

 Residents can call the Marblehead Municipal Light Department at 781-631-5600 if they don’t know their circuit.