PG&E Forecasts 5 More Years Of Intentional Power Outages

Doug Sovern
December 20, 2019 - 10:23 am
: The Sebastiani Theatre and much of downtown remained dark on October 10, 2019 in Sonoma, California. Power outages were scheduled as preemptive moves by PG&E to address hot, dry and windy weather and the risk of wildfires, according to the company.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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PG&E will deliberately cut power to customers to prevent wildfires for at least five more years, the company's chief executive said.

That revises a timetable laid out by CEO Bill Johnson who had said outages would be a fact of life in the Bay Area and beyond for at least a decade. 

The so-called Public Safety Power Shutoffs will also be shorter and confined to narrower areas than the outages this fall that affected millions of people in PG&E's vast territory in northern and central California, Johnson said. 

"Over the next couple years, you will see a progression of shorter, fewer PSPS. But the climate change and the weather change is dramatic enough that I don't think we will see the end of it for some period of time," Johnson told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

The intentional blackouts have cost customers $10 billion, according to Stanford Law School's Michael Wara.

"This problem is going to get worse, not better, as the years pass," said Wara ,speaking at the same Senate committee meeting. "And it's likely to spread beyond California into a broader impact on the western United States."

Johnson apologized for PG&E causing so many wildfires. He said the company will put safety first, installing more power lines underground and prioritize system hardening. 

Customers should see fewer rate increases once the utility emerges from bankruptcy. The settlement costs to reestablish PG&E's financial footing will be borne by shareholders, Johnson said.