In May, CALFIRE released findings condemning one of California’s major utilities company, PG&E, as the cause for last year’s devastating Camp Fire. Before these findings, the company was already in hot water with responsibility for 2017’s October Fire Siege in Northern California. The 10s of billions in lawsuits associated, forced the company to file for bankruptcy this January and prompted speculation that the Northern California utilities could become state-run. So far that hasn’t happened. But what has happened is that PG&E has decided to address the cause of these major fires by proposing to actually cut power during high-wind days, which could cause blackouts for millions of residents for days at a time.

Fire near powerline

Powerlines have been found to be responsible for the costliest fires in CA history

PG&E Shutoff Program

The Governor of California, Gavin Newsome stated that he is worried that the public are not ready. A Bloomberg article last week piled on suggesting, “While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be days and days of blackouts.”The state’s other utilities companies have already piloted shutoff programs, but on a smaller scale than the proposed PG&E program. On top of the shutoff proposal, here’s PG&E’s statement on the matter.

“We are actively working toward this commitment through our comprehensive Community Wildfire Safety Program, which includes: Real-time monitoring and intelligence; Enhanced vegetation management practices; Re-inspections of our critical electric infrastructure in high fire-threat areas; Building a more resilient electric system; Proactively shutting down power based on extreme conditions.”

Despite these commitments, the widespread devastation from wildfire problem is going nowhere. Time will tell how successful this program will be moving forward, but the costs and implications on infrastructure and residents are going to be something to watch closely.


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