PG&E defends implementing power shutoffs | News | |


PG&E defends implementing power shutoffs

Program affected 738,000 customers across Northern and Central California

PG&E officials defended their use of last week's public safety power shutoff and said as of 6 p.m. Saturday, all 738,000 customers in 34 counties who lost electric service as a result of the program had their power restored.

During a briefing earlier Saturday afternoon, PG&E President Bill Johnson addressed claims that the power shutoff was done to "save our own skins" and that PG&E's system was in shambles.

"It is simply not true that the condition of our system was the cause of this PSPS," Johnson said. "What is true is that the risk of wildfire has grown exponentially."

During the past week Gov. Gavin Newsom and others have criticized the utility for shutting down power, saying PG&E had neglected upgrades and maintenance.

On Saturday, Johnson thanked customers for their patience and described the shutoff as a "monumental undertaking."

Statewide, from the Sierra to Kern County, about 738,000 customers were affected. The dry windy weather that triggered the power shutoffs included wind gusts of more than 70 miles per hour in some areas, from Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.

Crews inspecting lines after this week's high winds have found 50 cases so far of damage or hazard to their equipment during the power shutoff last week, according to Sumeet Singh, PG&E vice president for asset and risk management. An additional 100 suspected cases are being reviewed.

Singh showed photos of tree branches that had fallen onto power lines, and downed poles on top of vegetation that could have sparked fires had the power been turned on, he said.

PG&E officials have apologized for an event held Tuesday in Sonoma County for natural gas customers, saying the timing and location was insensitive, given that this past week marked the two-year anniversary of the 2017 North Bay wildfires.

The event at a winery was attended by 60 people, including a handful of PG&E gas representatives. Corporation and utility CEOs did not attend and were in the company's emergency operations center, a spokesperson said.

The utility will no longer hold such events, said PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian.

— Bay City News Service

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