PG&E filing reveals CA utility’s concepts to lessen blackout burden


PG&ampE Corp. stated Friday it could potentially black out its complete electric grid to avoid wildfires — affecting five.four million households and firms — and recommended it would contemplate offloading the choice on future energy shutoffs to state officials.

In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, and in remarks to the Public Utilities Commission, PG&ampE Chief Executive Bill Johnson defended PG&ampE’s choice to impose a “public security energy shutoff” final week on an unprecedented 738,000 clients. Some men and women went with no energy up to 3 days. He did apologize for what PUC President Marybel Batjer known as a “total breakdown in communications” and stated PG&ampE is functioning to narrow the scope of future blackouts.

PG&ampE, in a 16-web page summary to the PUC of final week’s blackout, stated it is feasible it could shut down energy to all clients if climate situations dictate, even though it stated “the likelihood of an occasion of this scale occurring is really low.” Johnson told the PUC at an emergency meeting of the commission Friday that half of its grid is in a higher-fire threat zone, up from just 15 % seven years ago — a situation he attributed mostly to climate modify.

Johnson, in a letter to Newsom, deflected the governor’s demand for PG&ampE to reimburse clients.

“This is most appropriately an challenge for discussion following the CPUC’s evaluation of the incident,” he wrote.

He added that the state may well want take ownership of no matter whether future blackouts ought to be imposed.

“I have study and heard comments about PG&ampE’s motives in instituting the (blackout) and no matter whether we can be trusted to do the correct issue,” the CEO wrote. “In this vein, I consider a policy conversation is in order about no matter whether some other entity – CPUC, Cal Fire, and so on. – ought to be empowered as the authority to make such choices. I do not seek to shirk any duty with this suggestion but am interested in bolstering the public self-assurance essential for such choices to be efficient.”

He noted that PG&ampE consulted extensively with state officials just before pulling the plug.

The beleaguered utility has come below intense scrutiny for communication failures and the big estimated monetary losses projected by the shutoff, which began just before sunrise Oct. 9 and ended Oct. 12.

PG&ampE has known as the shutoff a “last resort” to combat serious wildfire threat amid hyper-gusty situations, which brought winds above 50 mph to some components of the west Sacramento Valley.

Acknowledging that its web-site crashed and its get in touch with center was overwhelmed, Johnson apologized for “these crucial errors” and vowed PG&ampE would do superior the subsequent time. While he stated he thinks the scope of the blackouts can be narrowed, Johnson added that “it’s most likely a 10-year timeline” just before important energy shutoffs develop into points of the previous.

That prediction prompted a speedy rebuke from state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, whose neighborhood was scarred by the 2017 wine nation fires. “Ten years is an unacceptable quantity of time to wait for PG&ampE to strengthen its electric grid so that it does not spark however a different catastrophic wildfire,” he stated in a ready statement. “That proposition is even a lot more offensive thinking of PG&ampE has neglected undertaking its job for years as it was paying out bonuses and shareholder dividends. Merely shutting down all the energy is not the answer either.”

Regardless of the company’s repeated claims through the hearing that it is functioning diligently to enhance its efficiency and heighten the security of the PG&ampE electrical energy method, PUC commissioners had been clearly skeptical about the utility’s track record and efforts.

“You will be judged by outcomes and not by plans,” Batjer told Johnson.

The firm defended the choice earlier this week, reporting that crews identified more than 100 situations of broken gear and citing this discovering as proof that the shutoffs had been a vital work to avoid wildfires. No important wildfires ignited through the 4-day energy shutoff occasion, which spanned 35 counties.

“We truly didn’t have any catastrophic fires in Northern and Central California,” Johnson told the commission, even though he acknowledged “we can not prove our choice avoided fires.”

The shutoff “served its vital goal,” he added. He added that PG&ampE is functioning to upgrade its method so future shutoffs, if vital, can be carried out “with a lot more precision.”

Newsom, speaking to reporters Friday following a California State University occasion in Sacramento, scolded PG&ampE’s “lack of preparedness as it relates to even obtaining a web-site that could be operational.”

“I want to remind you, the state of California came in and fixed that web-site in partnership with Esri and Amazon and Microsoft,” Newsom stated. “They had a get in touch with center that had backups, calls some men and women suggesting it was more than an hour, they weren’t even ready for that. The communication to regional government was inadequate.”

Newsom weighs in, once more

At the CSU occasion, Newsom stated he wasn’t familiar with a bill to disincentivize PG&ampE – introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco – from triggering enormous blackouts. But he stated he’s focused on what the California Public Utilities Commission can do to crack down on the utility.

“I appreciate legislative oversight, I consider that is encouraging, I consider that is proper and ought to continue, but the PUC has the hammer, they have the direct authority and Marybel Batjer, the new CPUC chair, has been functioning hand and glove with out administration and other authorities … She’ll be incredibly aggressive in terms of attempting to recognize the protocols that led to their choice generating.

“I want to see that rebate go forward,” Newsom added, referring to a option he posed earlier this week that involved paying out credits of $100 to all residential clients and $250 to all smaller industrial firms impacted by PG&ampE’s shutoffs. “We want men and women to continue to gather their receipts and make positive they quantify that organization interruption loss or their individual losses.”

Newsom stated PG&ampE will have to be held accountable for the shutoff events, which California “cannot move forward with.”

“The size and scope of this utility leads to the clear query, is it as well large and can it be broken up and managed in a unique way?” Newsom asked. “Can we nonetheless respect labor rights, defend our labor organizations, but at the exact same time have a framework exactly where we have a grid that can be a lot more appropriately managed that is essential of the planet and the moment we’re living?”

Associated stories from Sacramento Bee

Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting group, covering public security and other regional stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee whilst attending Sacramento State, exactly where he earned a degree in journalism.


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