500,000 in California Are Without Electricity in Planned Shutdown

Pacific Gas & Electric is cutting electricity as a precaution against sparking wildfires in high-wind conditions.

Comments: 260

  1. Declaring bankruptcy and cutting power are solutions? And I complain about our electric company here in France. If they tried either one of these, there would be new management, and I'm being polite.

  2. @Jean louis LONNE That's a fair point (particularly about the bankruptcy), but France isn't a desert as is this area of California (I live in Los Altos where this is happening). We haven't had rain in 6 months; we won't for another 2. The forests, of which there are many, are kindling and boarder neighborhoods -- really wealthy ones actually. People will die in the inevitable wildfires, regardless. I'm okay with an energy company being a bit cautious to save lives, even if it means i go without electricity for half a day.

  3. @Jean louis LONNE, and I used to complain about Con Ed when I lived in NYC. This PG&E strategy is absolutely ridiculous - over the years, they have never hesitated to weasel out of accountability, and then stick it to the consumer, when their negligence has resulted in disaster. Now, in a ludicrous attempt to escape liability, we have this shutdown. Evidently they have not thought through the liability of litigation of the unfortunate results of such a shutdown. I suppose they've weighed the potential costs of fires caused and/or abetted by a failed infrastructure, vs the potential costs of financial losses, injuries, and deaths that a days-long shutdown would result in - and decided that the latter was of less risk to them.

  4. @Jason Kelly we live in the Sierra foothills, and our power was cut. We have had big rains and are not a desert. It just poor infrastructure maintenance.

  5. this is dumb i dont think we need to turn off the power because high wind conditions shouldnt make us turn off all the powers for countys and citys and if there was a fire then theres a fire u can blame what nature does u lose some u win some.

  6. This is a total sham! PG&E is trying to look proactive after the last two years of wildfires. But, they have not explained why almost half of California should be considered high risk. And, five days to restore power!? Best thing would be to get rid of the whole company!

  7. @giorgio sorani ~ Although this covers a lot of area, I don't think 500,000 -1,000,000 people are "half of California".

  8. I know PG&E's website has been down, but it would have been helpful for the article to include links to sites that show where the power is being cut.

  9. @KC This map covers the Bay Area potential outages and some northern and central outages. If you are concerned about a particular address, you can type it in and find out if it is in one of the outage zones: https://projects.sfchronicle.com/trackers/power-outages/

  10. @KC I tried to access PG&E's web site multiple times yesterday and could not find out whether my neighborhood's power would be shut off, because the web site was not working and/or crashing because of the volume of web-site traffic. Finally, I e-mailed my city councilperson, and she told me that my address would not have an outage. Chaotic communications here!

  11. Texas utilities have a very aggressive tree cutting program. State law allows the firms to cut down anything that remotely might be near a line. Police need a warrant, but ONCOR’s guys with chain saws go anywhere they want. We do get more than a few stories about people chaining themselves to their trees to protect them. Seeing what is happening in CA, maybe tree aggression is a good idea. They do grow back.

  12. @Michael Blazin this is also true in California. They just don't. And when they do cut, they just leave the lumber on the ground.

  13. But they did pay big management bonuses and continue to do so. PG&E is efficient at increasing the profits of its shareholders and padding the pockets of its management. Even in bankruptcy it continues to ask for outrageous bonuses and to try to offload its liabilities on California through increased taxes and increased power rates. The State needs to take over PG&E. Cue a chorus of Libertarians laking about the inefficiency of government.

  14. @Chris Martin Proving again that like healthcare there are some things too important to be left to for-profit enterprises.

  15. @Chris Martin If you want this readership to understand how PG&E padded the pockets of its management, then spell out what those bonuses were. And the current salaries of the top CEO's.

  16. The good news is PG&E is being pro-active. The down side is that all those thousands of generators puttering away are themselves potential fire hazards-- relatively few people have solar panels and battery storage, a safer but very expensive alternative. Fighting vegetation is hard, the cost is high and if successful it looks like a waste of money.

  17. So Northern California is going back to the 18th Century? Wouldn't a 21st Century alternative be installation of rooftop solar panels?

  18. @DSL That's now mandatory for new construction. Unfortunately, they don't work well everywhere in CA.

  19. @DH Except that the solar is all tied to the grid with that new construction, so it wouldn't make a difference if they turn the power off.

  20. @DSL Small rooftop installations are a very inefficient way to generate solar power; they make/made sense in California only because the state's PUC allowed our three main electrical providers to charge very high rates. But small solar "farms" scattered about the state have attractive economics; we don't need 2000 panels in a single location, but 200 or 500 definitely has installation and maintenance efficiencies over 16 or 20. The big problem with all solar: time-shifting the energy from mid-day, when there's peak-production, to dinnertime, when there's peak-consumption. Rooftop solar doesn't solve this, and battery storage systems are still too expensive.

  21. To take such a drastic action, it must deserve more forethought. Surely there must be other ways to achieve the desired outcome. However, there is another (very important) side to this story: We cannot predict Mother Nature.

  22. Why is full power or no power the only choice. The company filed for bankruptcy, which is ludicrous. What is every power company doing to explore alternative power sources AND support consumers in their efforts to do the same? We know power companies, PUBLIC UTILITIES, which operate as monopolies in most cities and communities create barriers to those who would pursue generating their own power and even circulating it back to the grid. The other ridiculous thing about this is to act as if climate change and new building developments were not things that could have been foreseen, accommodated and planned for. Here in the 21st century, how is it possible that the best strategy a power company has is to turn off the power to all it's customers?

  23. @Lostin24 Because California chose to hold all utilities liable under inverse condemnation. It means that if they have followed al safety rules and have the best equipment that if anything happens no matter what they are liable.

  24. Good on PG&E to take proactive measures I guess, but it's amazing to me that in this day and age the best solution is to just turn off the power entirely. Maybe it's time in investing in modernizing and maintaining our power grid to make it safer and less likely to start fires so that hundreds of thousands of PG&E customers don't have to shut down their lives for days?

  25. We are entering a new era of climate change. Instead of making smaller changes over a longer period of time to adjust our lives to adjust to climate change and slow/stop it, we have continued business as usual – driving cars everywhere, having pointless items loaded onto airplanes so we could get them in 2 days, etc. Now, instead of adjustments like using less electricity, nearly a million people in California are going without electricity at all. This is only the start. The worst part is that the wealthiest among us (globally speaking), who did the most to cause these problems, will likely suffer the least.

  26. @S It isn't the wealthy among us who are flooding the oceans with plastic, for example. For that you can thank grossly overpopulated countries, i,e. India and China. It is also third world countries burning down their rain forests who are damning the planet.

  27. "The deliberate power cuts have been described by PG&E as a way to lower the risk of fire while the company proceeds with its vegetation-trimming program." PG&E already did vegetation trimming in my neighborhood, yet we are still within the power shutoff area. That does not make sense to me.

  28. @Gunhild Johnson That's because your power isn't locally generated. It's many of the transmission lines that they're concerned with. This is a good reason why more power should be decentralized solar, on rooftops, covering warehouses and shopping malls and all their associated parking lots (which would provide the additional benefit of keeping parked cars cool, because they'd be in the shade!)

  29. So what about all that food in refrigerators and freezers, not to mention people dependent on electricity for necessary medical devices? Not to mention drugs that need refrigeration to remain effective. Does PG&E intend to pay for spoiled food? And what about liability for any deaths not only from failed medical devices but traffic fatalities from lack of traffic and street lights ? Does bankruptcy protect them from that? And will this be a yearly occurrence? Clearly a radical solution is needed, such as a State or Federal takeover of PG&E which could bring greater resources to deal with what is and will be a catastrophic problem.

  30. @Amos M When PG&E had to shut off power a couple months ago to Irvine, friends of mine sent claims in to cover the cost of what was lost during the outage, which lasted 3-4 days. The only thing PG&E did was to give them $500 for spoiled groceries, even though the fish tank they lost was well into the thousands. And these folks lived in an apartment complex that wouldn't allow generators. I'm wondering if they're going to do the same here, but even if that's the case, I doubt you'd get much. I think this is insane, that one company has so much power to do this, but still can't upgrade/update its system to make it less vulnerable to fires.

  31. PGE is not the power provider to SO cal, where Irvine is located.

  32. @Lindsay $500 from PG&E was pretty generous since Irvine is in SCE's service territory.

  33. I live in an area that is going to lose power, but we have none of the extreme weather discussed in this article. PG&E tells me that they will shut the power anyway, forcing us to leave home. I don’t understand why. It seems like there should be some way to cut off power more selectively. PG&E must be using antiquated technology. But its 2019.

  34. @MsB Californians complain when PG+E utility bills get high, so PG+E is probably limited in the expensive upgrades to modern state of the art equipment. Those expenisve equipment costs will be reflected in the power bills of the customers.

  35. @Will Hogan writes: "Those expenisve equipment costs will be reflected in the power bills of the customers." Capital improvements on infrastructure could also come out of shareholder profits, which PG&E has prioritized over public safety for years.

  36. I understand why they are doing this, but doesn’t thousands of people turning to gasoline-powered home generators present a fire risk that is exponentially higher than the threat posed by standardized public infrastructure?

  37. @Jeff Yes, but the liability for any fire damage is on the homeowner who uses the generator and not PG&E.

  38. @Schneiderman Talking about liability after the fact is meaningless to the thousands of people left homeless by a catastrophic event such as the paradise fire!

  39. @Jeff No.. modern power generators are in fact quite safe to use. Their only real risk is setting them up indoors and not venting exhaust to the outside... but since there are temporary setups.. they are easy to setup on a patio and then run a properly rated extension cord indoors to appliances as required. They do represent more air pollution.. but not on a scale that would be measurable in the context of air pollution from motor vehicles.

  40. After having lived through the fires and emotional trauma of watching those flee, die, and relocate AND the severe disruption from heavy heavy smoke in air and health threats from dangerous pollutants, forcing us to relocate our family for a week to Southern CA, I’m totally comfortable with the inconvenience of no energy for a few days.

  41. I'm fortunate enough to not be affected - this time. It's time to start implementing public management of power. It's a core utility, necessary for safety and ultimately survival in our modern cities. In much of California it's managed by a private company that is dangerously cheap even when it's not outright negligent. I'm sure there are ways we could improve or fortify this infrastructure to cut down the fire risk without shutting off power for nearly a week to hundreds of thousands of people but I have no faith in PG&E to pursue this expensive and unprofitable process. A public utility in contrast could operate without having to generate a profit and could use things like taxes and bonds to deal with expansion and infrastructure needs. A private for profit utility will always weigh safety against shareholder value and the results are bad for us all.

  42. @Eric The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is top-notch. A few years ago, a ballot measure would have allowed SMUD expansion into a neighboring county. PG&E spent MILLIONS on scare-tactic ads that seemed plastered everywhere, including 24/7 on tv. Result? The measure was defeated, those voters stayed with the higher rates and poorer customer service. PG&E shareholders and over-paid execs were ecstatic. One more example of people voting against their self-interest due to airwaves saturated with Big Corporate propaganda.

  43. @PeteNorCal. I'm also on SMUD! Sacramento is like an island of power in the sea of PG&E outages.

  44. @Eric IMO, in all the talk lately -- including reader comments in the Times, SF Chronicle, etc. -- urging the municipalization of PG&E, it seems appropriate to give a shout-out to Bruce Brugmann, longtime editor of the now-defunct alternative weekly SF Bay Guardian. Bruggman was shouting to the high heavens 50 years ago that PG&E should be municipalized, a stance he relentlessly promoted until retiring a few years ago and for which he was ignored when not ridiculed by the powers that be.

  45. As extreme as this action is, it is the right choice for right now. No question PG&E (or a future public utility that will hopefully take over for them) needs to redesign the infrastructure to better fit with today's climate. I was a Bay Area resident for over a decade. It easy being in the Bay Area and not seeing fires or getting smoky air all that often during fire season and it feels overblown sometimes. But for the last three summers I have lived due east on the other side of the Sierra. The first two summers we were sealed up inside due to unhealthy smoke in the air coming over from California and settling in the Great Basin. Californians need to remember that its a worthy sacrifice to spare carcinogens for a massive population throughout the West. Not to mention the environment...

  46. It's really hard to know how to evaluate PG&E's action without having a full understanding of its income and expenses. Are higher electric rates necessary to pay for removing vegetation and taking other steps necessary to reduce wildfire? Or did PG&E have the money to spend but chose to spend it on lower priority items, including paying shareholders and keeping higher than necessary retained earnings? Without this type of analysis, it's hard to know where the blame should lie.

  47. You cannot expect to live within the trees in California, have electrical power, and then make PG+E liable for fires. It is not rational. Since fires caused by PG+E lines are still uncommon, maybe the California government should assume the liability. And then, the government can act like a typcial insurer and have specific requirements of the insured in order to be covered. In this case it would be to prohibit automatic restart of tripped lines, etc. Calif made a big mistake when they made PG+E liable for the fires. Californians love living in the forest with electricity. But the two are basically incompatible.

  48. @Will Hogan The vast majority of us who have or will lose power don't live in the forest or even lightly wooded areas. PG&E is doing this solely because they can and to reduce their future liability.

  49. Here's a great arguement for building net-zero buildings with islanding capacity. In California, many of these homes wouldn't even need to be tied to the electrical grid if designed properly.

  50. As Americans complain of taxation and federal governance, they have slipped into a dangerous misunderstanding of what keeps our lives civilized. The quality of life in our modern democractic society utterly depends on public oversight, infrastructure investment and sound regulation. Turing off power, reducing a part of California to a third world country...for days...is a pragmatic short term solution to the risk of wild fires. But putting power lines under ground could have been a better public investment years ago. Climate change and foolish development into wooded areas have also contributed to fire risk. It is time for long term public policy.

  51. @Sara Nice someone mentions the great American Taxation Allergy. ATA, I could coin it now :)

  52. @Daniel -- why should people be taxed for this? We're already PAYING the power companies to provide power and to maintain/upgrade their infrastructure. And yet every time there's a disaster, they use it as a excuse to push rate hikes through for funding for capital improvements that somehow never seem to happen. We've allowed these for-profit companies, which have been given monopolies in part to offset the cost of keeping the infrastructure up to date, to rip us off for years. Every time there's going to be a storm, we get a call from our power company: "You're listed as a well water customer and your power might go out and we can't guarantee how quickly we can restore it. So stock up on water." Here's an idea First Energy: update your infrastructure. Don't provide power using wooden poles that you replace only when they are torn down. When roads are torn up for other projects, bury the power lines. This shouldn't be rocket science.

  53. Northern Californian here. PG&E electric rates are high. Maybe if they spent more of our consumer rate-paying dollars on keeping their equipment updated and safe, and vegetation safely away from power lines -- instead of $$$ into investor profits and generous bonuses for executives -- we could avoid these power cuts affecting hundreds of thousands of people. And -- right now -- there is not even one breath of wind. Total calm. But 500,000 are without electricity. Go figure.

  54. Although we have no wind PG&E, in its infinite wisdom, turned off our power at midnight. They don’t expect to turn it back on for five days. Unacceptable.

  55. @The Alamo Kid - Interesting. I can't help but notice from a distance that PG&E seems to be going bankrupt due to fire claims so I have to wonder if the shutdown is really due to fire threat or a sinking ship? People are saying the website is down? Never a good sign when a company can't keep a website up.

  56. @tom harrison Web site is simply over loaded with traffic... not "down". Not unlike federal websites when something of interest to millions suddenly starts getting inundated with traffic. I am able to get to it fine.. it just may take more then a minute to clear through the busy loading on the site at the moment.

  57. This is what happens when you transfer public infrastructure to a profit motivated corporation. There should have been a 30 bond to sink the lines decades ago.

  58. This could all be avoided if the government would let lumber companies clear 100 meters of trees every 5 miles so you could contain the fires in 5 square mile blocks, and we could benefit from low cost wood and we could save the forests at the same time.. but common sense is too much to ask... any tree cut down is one too much for eco extremists whose policies end up hurting the very thing they are trying to protect

  59. It’s not trees, but brush; companies do not want those trees; and some of the fires start in urban areas or near highways; but by all means blame your pet bete noire. Everyone else is.

  60. @noel "Eco-extremists" - if they were so extreme their policies would not be adopted and implemented by governments. Protecting growing things at all costs after decades of clear cut selling of those things to for profits is a policy the people of CA agree to. CA has worked hard to protect forests and wilderness areas which allow people the world over to see some form of "untouched" wildlife.

  61. @noel for some one living in No.California, it's surprising that Noel appears to be unaware that 100 meter firebreaks would be largely ineffective in stopping the spread of such wind-driven fires as ravaged the region ( as well as Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia ) in recent years.

  62. I still don't understand how cutting off power to 1/2 million people reduces the risk of wildfires?

  63. @RPM If power lines are not 'live' then when winds knocks down those lines into super dry grasslands/scrubby underbrush, sparks ignite tiny flames. Given the abundance of dried materials and the wind energy, a few tiny flickers can grow into a conflagration that covers miles of land in several hours. Poor maintenance means that PG&E has no idea of the condition of their power lines, has not been scrupulous about removal of trees/brushes, and that transformers and other equipment are not necessarily in good condition. Once power surges in the system, weaker links give way.

  64. @RPM....Winds can down limbs, which can fall on powerlines, which if live, will cause sparking. Given dry windy conditions and the build up of dry fuel in these forests...

  65. @RPM power is generated many miles away, often by hydroelectric dams. The power lines for transmitting the electricity to urban areas crosses dried up forests and grasslands. As previous posters have mentioned, if the lines are downed or cross each other by the wind, fires are likely to start.

  66. This is nothing more than blackmail and punishment for utilities being held accountable for their malpractice. They have had 3/4 of a century to work out making their transmission lines safe. There is no justifiable reason for these companies not to have made their equipment safe in all weathers.

  67. @Douglas Oliver, Unless you take account the legal fiduciary responsibility of corporations to shareholders. The crisis is unregulated capitalism. But you are still on point and we don't believe shareholders would have objected to the extra cost of safety and reliability.

  68. So instead of fixing the problem PG&E will just put everybody in the dark, glad I don't work for them any more.

  69. @BTO They are held liable if it is fixed, updated and even if they followed all safety rules and procedures.

  70. Welcome to the Third World! Goodbye California, it ain’t my fault!

  71. welcome to our future.

  72. @teoc2 Yes. You can now add another to California's future. They already have earthquakes, landslides, wildfires and water shortages. Now you can power outages.

  73. @Don Wiss tornadoes, too.

  74. The electric grid infrastructure needs to be underground.

  75. Wow... Thought that for energy production, distribution, and efficiency - CA going to show the rest of the country how it's done...

  76. It is way past time for the state to take over PG&E and make it a true public utility rather than a for profit business that is beholden to its shareholders rather than their captive customers.

  77. @David White We need to push that thought to CA state legislators and Governor Newsom.

  78. @David White. Government Bureaucrats taking over utilities. Hmmm, that sounds like Venezuela taking over its oil and gas industry and we know how that turned out! I don’t follow CA local politics, but I bet PG&E has a very different view and that it may be documented by years of CA regulators prohibiting rate increases needed to pay for upgrades.

  79. This! I can’t understand why our feckless politicians allow us to be cast into the dark like we live in some third world wasteland. I remember what happened to the last governor who allowed blackouts to torment the state. He was recalled. Be careful Gavin.

  80. This is the result of years of neglect by PGE. Instead of maintaining lines and removing vegetation they chose profit. I was in the Camp Fire and lost everything. I understand why power is going off in high wind areas. Had this company done what was prudent this mess would not be happening. The lobbying money PGE used to bend politicos could have been put into maintenance. I now live in a Northern California county that has a public utility that actively maintains their lines. There is no shut off here.

  81. @Llewis Private companies are owned by shareholders and demand huge profits. This is expensive for their customers. Public companies do not need profits, but they have public workers who work less hard, have huge benefits, and cannot be fired for anything less than child abuse. They cannot be fired for mediocre productivity. This is expensive for their customers.

  82. @Llewis Amen. Glad you are safe today.

  83. @Will Hogan I am truly curious to know if indeed public workers work less hard than workers in the private sector or if that is simply a leftover notion from the Reagan propaganda machine.

  84. PG&E is a publicly-traded company. There's your problem. Increased profits are more important than the needs of a captive customer pool. The state regulators prevent market-based power fees, so increased "efficiency" is achieved through evermore inadequate maintenance. (Regulators are supposed to be on top of that, too. But I don't doubt some cozy relationships in Sacramento have led to lax oversight.) Looks great on the balance sheets, year after year. But then the chickens came home to roost in Santa Rosa and Paradise. Now, the company is exposed to endless lawsuits, wiping out the company's business model. Late capitalism, California-style.

  85. @Len Arends Exactly. I live in California for 25 years before moving. They are extremely crooked and should have been forced into receivership years ago when their gas lines blew up in San Bruno and killed many people.

  86. No comments yet about people choosing to live in areas of wild fire danger. San Francisco and other dense cities have largely paved over the vegetation, so wildfire risk is minimal. Suburbs have some risk, as grasslands and tree stands still exist and can be fuel. But the sparsely populated areas, whether around Lake Tahoe or within the forests, have the highest risk and are not prepared. Building roads, power lines, and other utilities to serve these communities is much more expensive. And FEMA or the State paying to rebuild the houses after a fire makes the loss socialized. Its fine to want to live on the beach or in the forest, but one should assume the risks of that choice.

  87. @James These are metropolitan areas, so maybe you shouldn't judge if you don't know what you are talking about. PG&E sends all of it's profit to it's parent company out of state and then declares bankruptcy to avoid paying for their lack of investment. They are trying to raise rates 4X what they are now to cover their costs from the fire. Why should the customers have to pay for their mistakes?

  88. @James Ever heard of the Oakland Hills fires? Oakland is an urban area that is surrounded by hillsides covered in vegetation. So is Berkeley and the rest of the East Bay. This effects people living in urban areas, not just rural and wilderness areas.

  89. The cost of providing power to rural parts of the state should include putting the power lines underground and out of harm's way. Some may want to use this as an excuse to disrespect the state with the most powerful economy, greatest public university system, and absolute stunning scenery from mountains, deserts, farm valleys and the ocean. They are just wrong. California with the lights out is even better.

  90. This is an outrage. For decades, Pacific Gas and Electric Company failed to invest in its aging infrastructure. 30% of their high transmission lines were built between 1900 and 1910 (!) and the other 60% were constructed between 1920 and 1950. According to a July 2019 Wall Street Journal article, "PG&E has known for years that hundreds of miles of high-voltage power lines could fail and spark fires, yet it repeatedly failed to perform the necessary upgrades.” These PG&E so-called public safety shutoffs are creating incalculable hardship, especially for the elderly. Schools and businesses have had to close while literally tons of unrefrigerated food is rotting away. While PG&E is legally liable for damage from fires caused by transmission lines, it is not liable for costs incurred by businesses and customers when power is shut off. If PG&E were required to pay for losses occurred during these power shut-offs, they most likely would not be doing them. How can this (bankrupt) utility's actions be acceptable?

  91. @Cassandra G. You could start by looking at your governors and legislatures over the decades. But I guess you already knew that.

  92. @Cassandra G. I totally agree wirh you...but they have to green light these outages to protect us and the environment. BUT if they were held accountable for the loss of revenue businesses will incur during shutoffs they would be way more proactive in resolving the issue of the outdated and hazardous lines. Incredulous abuse of power & privilege...it is an outrage. At the least they should have supplied mini generators for its customers...some people are using ventilators, dialysis machines, nebulizers, nicu equipment, etc to survive.

  93. @Cassandra G. And I am rather surprised the author doesn't mention the lack of investment in infrastructure while handing profits over to shareholders.

  94. The Friedman Doctrine at work... Customers be damned and neglected. Remember, PG&E had 2 years to remediate risks after the Santa Rosa fire but didnt... The Friedman Doctrine, or Shareholder Theory, is a normative theory of business ethics advanced by economist Milton Friedman which holds that a firm's main responsibility is to its shareholders.

  95. @The Scarcity of Park Slope Parking Spots thank you so much for explaining the Friedman Theory....PG&E has so much blood on its hands. Hopefully this will push people to purchase solar generators.

  96. @The Scarcity of Park Slope Parking Spots The best way to remediate is to underground the equipment. That's cost prohibitive. Utilities should be operated as public agencies, not private companies. Look at the bonuses PG&E has paid to its current and past officials. That money should have gone into infrastucture.

  97. Climate Change. Coming to a city near you.

  98. @PC - Good. I'm already tired of the rain and we are just getting started for our winter rainy season (not to be confused with our summer rainy season).

  99. So, when it gets windy, the state with the worlds fifth largest economy and who that claims they will be getting most of their energy from renewable sources... is going to turn off the electricity? California, claims that they already gets a large percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, yet they pay some of the highest rates in the country? Despite paying high rates (19.9 C per Kwh average) their infrastructure hasn't been maintained - and which a large percentage of blame can be placed at the feet of environmentalists? California is going to be a leader in the energy field for the rest of the country and world? (Hmm, Hawaii, which has a lot of renewable energy is paying 32.76 C per Kwh... sounds like the claims that renewable energy is SO CHEAP.... is a bit exaggerated!) California wants renewable energy? They want to sue the electric company's that supply their energy? They want to tell the rest of us how to run our lives?

  100. @The Critic The source of the electricity isn't what causes fires. Electricity is electricity. You still need wires to get it where it needs to go. So, what is your point?

  101. @The Critic you obviously don't know a) we are a state with 30+ million people, and b) it will take years before people will have access to 100% renewable energy. NOwhere does California claim to get a large percentage of our electricity from renewable sources. You also don't seem to grasp the fact that PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) is NOT a state owned company, And more like a monopoly which even the Federal government has allowed. As to Hawaii a state with a total population of around 1 million (like San Francisco) is generating about 22 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy and still makes it hard for individuals to be off grid!

  102. @The Critic I read your comment and had my doubts, so I did some checking and found out that you are correct! Currently, California gets over 33% of the energy from renewable sources and are mandated that it be 50% by 2030. Yet, they can't keep their lights on and have some of the highest rates in the nation! Not once did you mention anything about fires, yet the guy from Shreveport implied that you did. As far as what BGD said, not sure where she is getting her numbers because it is obvious she doesn't have a clue! Keep up the good work - at least you know what you're talking about!

  103. I am one of those 500,000 without power. In one way, and although it is an inconvenience, it is a sacrifice well worth it. I witnessed entire neighborhoods devastated two years’ ago during the Tubb’s fire. We still grieve the lives lost. That being said, I remain suspicious of both the CA PUC and PG&E. They exercise too much control over our pocketbooks. Mark my word, we consumers will pay for PG&E’s neglect. And let there be no doubt that there is something to be said for solar and wind energy.

  104. @Kathy Lollock, it is more than a little inconvenience. In the brief moment that I was able to access a PG&E web page on the outages, I saw how many “medical baseline” customers were being affected in each country and region. There are thousands. That group can include people on breathing support, and other critically important equipment. There are elderly who have no one to help them. People are freaking out over the lack of traffic lights, so there will be accidents. Businesses are losing revenue because they have to close up shop. All of this because PG&E let their infrastructure decline to the point that it is a danger to the populace. Shame on them.

  105. Gavin Newsom has to go...we can’t take him much longer!

  106. @Charlie Did he order PG&E to turn off the power?

  107. @Charlie He said we should all be infuriated, guess you missed it.

  108. The de-regulation of the 90s plays a huge part in this. PG&E stopped removing tree, brush from power lines, causing the problem.

  109. @kgj So they should clear cut 200’ trees that can fall into lines through redwood and pine forests?

  110. At 8 this morning there was no wind, and the high temps this week are 10-20 degrees below recent heat waves. Bankrupt PGE is trying to throw its weight around to get ratepayer concessions. "Nice big economy you have here. Sure would be a shame if the capital of electronics had no electricity for a week." This extortion should redouble our efforts to find alternatives to this irresponsible corporate monster. Go off-grid? Jail the directors and management?

  111. Interesting... 4 of the 17 national DoE laboratories sited in CA... https://www.energy.gov/science/science-innovation/office-science-national-laboratories If any one of them had been doing what they should have been doing to advance the cause of SMR’s (inherently-safe small modular reactors) over the past two decades, CA’s 50 GW peak draw would be getting satisfied by about 500 100 MWe SMRs... (yes, I know that's not SLAC's day-job) And, because of the locality, most of the HV distribution grid wouldn’t even be needed...

  112. We need to invest a massive amount of money to bury the power lines underground, all across the at-risk areas. We cannot use this approach year after year to avoid wildfires by chance. California needs to come up with a better solution, and it might take serious funding from us taxpayers to do this. Hopefully the wealthy residents of the Berkeley hills, Orinda, Piedmont, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Tiburon, and Marin County will not mind chipping in.

  113. Glad I have a Tesla Powerwall and solar panels for backup. I don't really NEED to be on the grid at all. I'll bet those systems are going to be flying of the shelves now!

  114. @Joseph While it is certainly dry and warm enough in the summer/early fall in Puget Sound for wildfires, we lack the key vector that makes them uncontrollable -high winds. The PNW tends to have its outages in the late fall/winter when there is rain and high winds. How much do your solar panels help in January?

  115. @Jay I'm not really concerned about blackouts here in Seattle. The longest we usually have here is about 12 hours or so. The Powerwall is great for that, even in January. It will keep the whole house going for about a day. Even in January, there will be enough solar to recharge it a bit and at least keep the lights on after that. My point is that it would be the perfect solution for southern California blackouts due to high wind.

  116. @Jay - I spent a year once living outside in Seattle running my power from a small solar powered battery. Even in the dead of winter (November is the worst), I had no problem keeping my phone and laptop charged. And all of those solar powered lights in people's yards light up all winter here.

  117. PG&E is a monopoly, and they have been playing (and winning) a long game. Any coverage of this story needs to reference the huge salaries + bonuses their executives pull in, as well as the very blurry line between the CPUC/PUC (supposed oversight) and the company. Many former oversight folks go on to make big bucks at PG&E. We need to have one grid for all, and we need public utilities that are not beholden to well-to-do shareholders and run by millionaires.

  118. And, a lot more than that are without power as a result of the last election!

  119. As a resident of northern California... I see this as very much a double edged sword and a no win for PG&E Reason: their power distribution system is virtually all above ground high voltage power lines which are vulnerable to damage due to wind. Such damage often results in live wires falling into combustible brush and trees... hence.... you get fires sometimes like the giant tragedies in the last couple of years. As such.. the only recourse they have in high wind conditions is to monitor their lines and begin shutting them down if they exceed safe stress limits.... BEFORE a fire starts. Once a fire is started in high wind conditions during dry high risk fire conditions...... it is impossible to contain.. and people die.. sometimes lots of people die. Of course those of us in urban centers... far from the distribution lines have little sympathy and feel indignant at being forced to be without power. Simply put... self centered people do not care about the larger need for safety during high fire hazard and wind conditions. Impact: Residents in northern California are powerless (no punn intended) to do anything about this... they simply have to sit and take it. Solution? There is none. Taking over PG&E by the state cannot change the fire safety equation... and may even make it worse. It is cost prohibitive to move all the power distribution in outlying areas where there is fire hazard to undergound lines. That would literally cost many 10s of billions.

  120. This rapacious private company, thoroughly protected by both political parties, is only part of the problem. There is a larger elephant in the room, and a much more frightening one. Climate catastrophe is well underway. The effects of heedless development in wild areas, the astounding automobile traffic, the drought and air pollution that result...what do we expect? A new normal is here. I share Greta's sense of panic, and I can't understand why anyone wouldn't.

  121. A few years ago, there was a specific rate increase for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. PG&E management instead spent the ratepayer dollars on shareholder dividends and management bonuses. Yet no one went to jail for this criminal diversion.

  122. I am all for the shutdown. Property loss aside, the air quality caused by wildfires is intolerable and poses a serious health risk. The utilities need to be undergrounded. PG&E needs to be broken up. Electricity should not be controlled by a privately held company. Our electric rates are so high, and for what?

  123. Ask the former people of Paradise if a few days without power would have been preferable to what they experienced, or the 5000 who lost their homes in Santa Rosa in 2007. Maybe a false choice presented by PG&E but while they work on their infrastructure, this seems like a reasonable thing to do.

  124. @Perfect Commenter writes "while they work on their infrastructure, this seems like a reasonable thing to do." Ummm, do you have any idea how many years they estimate it will take to "work on their infrastructure" ??? And how many years they have already had to do it. The company needs to be replaced by something better.

  125. Perhaps, but the scale of destruction and loss of human life in both Santa Rosa and Paradise was unprecedented. It’s easy to Monday morning Qb them now, but if they had proposed billions in wildfire prevention infrastructure upgrades in 2005, customers would have been outraged about footing the bill for some backwoods cabins.

  126. @Perfect Commenter: People have been complaining about PG&E's lack of tree trimming, for example, for as long as I can remember (and I've lived in California all of my life, 60+ years), whether it was because of winter storms downing lines or now the "Diablo" winds. Instead they've focused on shareholder returns and corporate bonuses rather than infrastructure improvements, all with the blessing of the state Public Utilities Commission and other government officials, elected and appointed.

  127. "The East Bay Municipal Utility District, a water utility, said its pumping capacity would be affected by the shut-off and urged its customers to minimize water use and turn off their irrigation systems." You have to wonder why California still blatantly wastes water with irrigation systems when they have had extreme droughts and will continue to in the future. I lived in Marin County in 1977 during a drought that lasted 10 months with severe water rationing. They should be learning to ration water now.

  128. @Jacquie It is a fictional show but the latest season of Goliath with Billy Bob Thorton shows an area where the almond farmers and ranchers have formed their own illegal cooperative for the local water and basically anyone else living there has no water at all. With the amount of almond products now available for vegans and those just off dairy, there is a good chance that water wars will occur in CA earlier rather than later. And why does no one talk about the environmental implications of this almond production like they do cows and red meat.

  129. @Jacquie 80% of available water in CA is used by industrial ag. Much of what's grown, almonds, alfalfa, is shipped not just out of state, but out of the country. CA is exporting water in the form of ag products. Additionally big ag is a huge if not the biggest polluter of water in the state. The ground in the central valley is sinking because big ag is pulling water out of the aquifer to the point that the aquifer is collapsed and cannot be restored. Households area a relatively small part of water use. And asking people to conserve as individuals is ineffective. Only policy will make the needed change.

  130. Most of the world experiences high winds and low humidity in areas with heavy vegetation. The difference here, especially in California, is that we build houses out of lumber and formaldehyde laced plywood/OSB. Many who did not die from fire are ill from formaldehyde poisoning, which is 100x worse when inhaled. Our media never reports these facts, and devastated towns usually rebuild with wood. It’s cheaper.

  131. @Mike Roddy And, in California, fire departments are not a government responsibility, like police and schools are. Look it up!

  132. PG&E should stop punishing customers and upgrade their equipment to ensure none of it explodes and sparks wildfires. The onus should be on them, however, and they’ve shifted it onto the consumers. We’re all a bit uncertain about power over the next few days, with mixed-messages, incomprehensible maps, and lack of clear explanations on when these outages may occur. PG&E continues to fall upwards.

  133. @Dan Inverse condemnation says that they are liable even if their facilities are within or beyond code. Meaning they can update but it doesn’t matter as they are still liable not matter how new the facilities are.

  134. PG&E is liable for starting the terrible fires last summer, but they should not be liable for the fact that the fires consumed entire towns. These areas were tinderboxes and absolutely anything could have set them off. Now, the rest of us in CA are paying the price for poor fire prevention in these communities. What if the fires last summer had been started by lightning or by some other entity that did not have deep pockets? The fires would have been just as severe, but there would not be a faceless corporation to blame. 1) PG&E should work to prevent ignition. 2) Communities in high fire danger areas need to greatly improve their ability to contain fires and preserve property.

  135. Finally something proactive.

  136. Here in the Calaveras and Amador counties in the Sierra foothills where PG&E began shutting off power at midnight more and more people have been going off grid with full solar for power and propane for cooking and heating. Am sure this situation of power being shut off to near one MILLION people will make even more people cut ties with PG&E! The question remains, will more cities create yjeir own power companies, and/or will the state succumb to what I call economic blackmail and bail PG&E out of their multi billion dollar mess? I pray not!!

  137. If you don’t live here you have no idea how incompetent PG&E is! They are sending out robo calls providing a code that customers can — ostensibly — enter on a PG&E web page, to find out whether they will lose power, and when. Every time I try to access the page, I either get what seems to be a hijacked page (my browser advises that I close it because my personal information might be stolen), or I get a “cannot connect to server,” or I get a PG&E page that has no place for the code and no link to a page that might have one. I am stumped. I am on the list of regions to be affected, though, so I expect my power to go out. I have a generator, and can pump my well water. I am staying home until the chaos stops. I have a box of chocolate chip cookies, so I’m good. Adding to this circus of desperation on PG&E’s part, the company (Davey Tree) that does their tree maintenance around power lines turned up this morning to finish some tree clearing on my property (I have a PG&E easement). They started that job and abandoned it back in late Spring. The guys have a checklist of unfinished jobs in my neighborhood. And they are doing this at the very last second? The world is falling into anarchy. I am starting to feel frightened.

  138. The country is falling into something worse than anarchy—all our commons (water, air, health care, roads, education, electricity, etc) have fall into the hands of capitalists who monopolize the services and hold us hostage. Profit is their raison d’être, not provision of services.

  139. @Passion for Peaches I’m in the Bay Area, too. I feel like I’m bracing for The Purge: Power Outage.

  140. Would like to add that the work PG&E’s tree guys are catching up on, at the last minute, is work I had to beg PG&E to do in the first place. The tree crews missed my property this year! In January of February I received the usual notice that PG&E would be maintaining trees under the owner lines on my property. They never showed up, so a few months later I contacted PG&E to get someone up here. They sent a crew, and those guys did some of the work, but then they disappeared for some reason. And here they are today, finishing the job. And PG&E blames property owners for keeping them from maintaining clearance around the lines!

  141. Maybe they should think about upgrading their power system and install underground power cables. There are no power lines above the ground in the street I live in, in New Zealand. I also have a 'Smart Metre' that is on the side of the house and beams my power use to the power company. No need for metre men to read the power monthly. I live in a working class suburb and a cheap side of Christchurch home. Also, there are lots of solar power lanterns and lights you can buy at hardware shops and shops that sell camping equipment. Stock up - there are also solar power battery rechargers you can buy for cell phones. This is a great time for the media to write articles on where to buy all your solar power appliances.

  142. This is crazy. Large condo apartment buildings with elderly residents are cutting off power (to their elevators! to their water pumps for residents on 6th floor up). These are apartment buildings in dense residential areas. Gov. Newsome should be impeached for allowing this to happen. Cutting off water and electricity to the eldery because of something that *might* happen is senseless.

  143. @JoJoCity Gov. Gray Davis was recalled from office because of Enron's blackouts in the early 2000's. The law that allowed Enron to churn California's electric utilities was promoted and signed into law by his predecessor, Gov. Pete Wilson. He was forgotten and nothing happened to him. Gov. Davis was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  144. Batteries such as the one that today won the Nobel Prize for chemistry can come to rescue along with the solar phototoxic cells which are now common in California and cheap enough. Married to the batteries such as the one used in electric cars, these batteries provide an excellent back up for few hours. For longer duration if you use it only for critical appliances such as refrigerators, medical devices, phone charging etc. Both solar cells and batteries are subsidized by California government to the tune of several hundred million dollars. Money has been directed to bring community level backups at fire stations, schools and other critical infrastructures. Batteries get charged when sun rises the next day. One can also sue small wind mills that produce more power on windy days. Today’s Nobel Prize in chemistry is well deserved as it provides a low price, cheaper solution for overcoming challenges presented by the mass scale blackout PG&E is planning to avoid fire danger. People can now be their own mini utility that is self-sufficient for a few days when PG&E power shuts off.

  145. So in one of the wealthiest states in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, this is what we are faced with: shut off the power or risk having your house burn down. PG&E is a corrupt, inefficient and horribly run bureaucratic mess. It needs to be broken up and the power grid taken over and maintained by regional power authorities. Imagine if Bell Telephone had not been broken up in 1982. I wonder what (or even if) kind of cell service we would have today and at what prices?

  146. @lb best post.

  147. @calleefornia Thanks!

  148. So glad this is finally happening. My aunt and uncle lost their house in a wildfire, one of my close neighbors lost everything in one and simply left, half of our street burned down, my parents were evacuated for a week and lived on pins and needles waiting to hear whether their home was gone, smoke thick and unhealthy for days every time this happens, one friend in Lake County evacuated 3 times in 3 years, that feeling when you see plumes and a line of fire coming up and over the mountain at you... Shut off the power if it saves a single house, a single life.

  149. A hard decision made because of the hard reality of climate change. Such extraordinary measures will become more frequent and will spread to locations across the United States and the world as climate change alters the landscape of our country and the world. Prepare yourselves as best you can and be aware that what you thought couldn't possibly happen can, and in many cases will happen to you no matter where you live in America.

  150. in a clinical fashion this is quite interesting - an overt admission that the acceptable level-of-risk for the normal distribution of electricity is now is now vying for the 1-in-a-1000-year: forest fire hurricane flood etc etc & etc

  151. In case you don’t yet get it, Californians are being punished by PG&E. The current power outages are that company's retaliation for being found responsible for recent deadly firestorms. Now they will have more blood on their hands. Electric power is not just another commodity, subject to the whims and machinations of the market. Time and again, PG&E have placed their stockholders’ interests ahead of California residents, who have no recourse. With climate change looming, now is the time for the people of California to take back control of electric power generation and distribution.

  152. @John Techwriter I agree. I have 40 acres that burned during the Thomas fire due to Con Edison working with a live line on the ground (if local reports are to be believed). Now they want us to pay for their sloppy practices. Hoping by turning off the lights in Silicon Valley, this will expedite the advancement for off-the-grid solar, leaving them in even deeper financial trouble.

  153. @John Techwriter I agree. I have 40 acres that burned during the Thomas fire due to SoCal Edison working with a live line on the ground (if local reports are to be believed). Now they want us to pay for their sloppy practices. Hoping by turning off the lights in Silicon Valley, this will expedite the advancement for off-the-grid solar, leaving them in even deeper financial trouble.

  154. @John Techwriter I agree. I have 40 acres that burned during the Thomas fire due to SoCal Edison working with a live line on the ground (if local reports are to be believed). Now they want us to pay for their sloppy practices as they are also threatening to turn off power in high wind. Hoping by turning off the lights in Silicon Valley, this will expedite the advancement for off-the-grid solar, leaving them in even deeper financial trouble.

  155. Can't have a thriving tech based economy with no power.

  156. I doubt they turned off the power in Palo Alto.

  157. I left the Bay Area (San Francisco/Berkeley) in 2002 and only go back for family reunions and visiting friends, but all my family and friends still live in the Bay Area: San Francisco, Daly City, Oakland, Richmond, Castro Valley, Danville, Vacaville, Alameda, Concord, Fremont, Modesto, Sacramento, Sausalito, literally, all over Northern California. According to my sister, shutoffs were from 12am to 4 am, and are again scheduled to happen from 12 pm to 5 pm. Still trying to figure out what's happening. PG&E was never a problem for me, but ConEd in Westchester county? Don't get me started.

  158. People should have liberty to reside where they want to but they should be cognizant of dangers, and not hold their government or utility responsible for underwriting those risks. People build houses in flood zones year after year, and then they want FEMA to cover the cost year after year. Same is happening for the localities close to highly wooded, fire prone areas. Many are also the same people who fight paying taxes or high cost of getting electric power to their homes. Many people, especially in the South Central US seaboard, also deny global warming. They cannot have it both ways. If you choose to live in danger prone areas, you have to take some risk on and not perpetually blame the government or utility. If PG&E does not shut off the power and homes catch fire these people will be the first one to sue their local utility. Putting electric wires underground cost $3 million per mile compared to $500,000 per mile for overhead wires that can fall down during a storm. But underground wires are expensive to fix in case of floods or earthquake. Life is calculated risk. (I do not work for utility or government).

  159. Great time to go offgrid! Don't forget to build properly in your risk area. Concrete is still nice!

  160. @Cleareye I saw glass melted after the fires that blew through last time. It had to be near 4000 degrees and moving at 30mph. Nothing will survive it unless you have a massive defensive space.

  161. Anything to avoid wild fires should be welcomed. The golden state seems more and more a state to move out off and fast

  162. @Girish Kotwal Says a McConnell supporter I presume?

  163. As of this writing (11AM on 10/9), PG&E's website is down. It's been down all morning.

  164. It's absolutely ridiculous that it should have come to this in what's now the world's 5th largest economy. The state Public Utilities Commission and our legislators have completely failed in their oversight of PG&E. Shareholder profit and executive bonuses have taken precedence over infrastructure maintenance and public safety for years—far too long.

  165. @MJ You don't understand the utility business model. PG&E would have loved to put a whole bunch of capital into their rate base to collect a return, but typically these requests are cut by the PUC. It's true that management did an abominable job making the case for big investment in maintenance and upgrades, but people also didn't want to pay for it in rates, so here we are.

  166. Cutting power to this many homes creates its own hazards. It remains to be seen how many deaths will result among the elderly and disabled, who need electricity for their own safety. In addition, most wildfires are not caused by power lines; it's campfires, cigarettes, lightning strikes, etc. All are now officially the fault of PG&E.

  167. Here we have another, horrible, example of a corporate action causing more and more angst to say the least to the citizens of a state, over at least 1 million and going up with both large electric utilities. It was PE&E in the north and in some cases Edison in the south for the fires but customers are punished, not the CORPORATIONS. This is what a Corporate State is like. Tragic to say the least. Horrible is most.

  168. Not so long ago, I thought that such power outages happened only in countries like Venezuela. It now looks like the US is increasingly joining the ranks of the third world, at least when it comes to the quality and reliability of its infrastructure. In turn this affects everything from the ability to conduct business in a predictable fashion, to the daily lives of ordinary citizens. If things do not change for the better, drastically and very soon, our country is going to sink very fast.

  169. All utilities must be run by 'the people'. Electricity is part of 'the commons', meaning, since every one needs it and a homeowner cannot 'shop' for an electric company (because only one set of wires enter ones home). Company executives and stockholders have no right to profit from a required service. Other utilities include natural gas, garbage pickup, water, healthcare, and others. They all must be run by public municipalities.

  170. @Mark Agreed! Our family has had good service over 50 years with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Even with an occasional scandal that all institutions seem to have with over a century of service, all profits have gone back into the department and to customers. We get conservation freebies and hefty rebates for solar, electric cars, low-water landscaping, low-flow toilets/washers and more. With PG&E declaring bankruptcy, it’s a perfect opportunity for the state to take it over, kick out the capitalistic leaches, and remodel the company more toward the model of LADWP. I really wish the legislature was even more progressive in its policy solutions than it currently is. Still too many poorer red counties to the east and far north along with the increasingly greedy billionaires of Silicon Valley for that too happen.

  171. @Mark And are those "the people" willing to pay the tax rate that will make all of this "the people" ownership available? If they complain about their tax rate now, just wait until they own everything.

  172. O.K. folks - there are a lot of people who are saying PG&E needs to upgrade and more to prevent fires and and and. See, here's the thing - rates are set by the PUC. It is going to cost money to do all of the improvements but who is going to pay for it? It is not at all clear that public vs private utilities differ greatly in cost. Nobody wants any rate increases but that is up to your PUC to decide. No money - no large scale restructuring. Perhaps in their zeal to protect the customer from the evil corporation, they have low balled the rates.

  173. @uwteacher -- but we've ALREADY BEEN PAYING for these upgrades. The utilities just find ways to divert funds. Every time there's an emergency like this, it's back to the well to ask for more rate increases. Here's an idea: cut dividends and use the money to make capital improvements. Why are you paying your capital providers dividends when you haven't properly budgeted for infrastructure improvements? Here's another idea: have the PUC actually hold the utilities accountable for using proceeds of bond sales to pay for infrastructure improvements.

  174. @uwteacher Hold the rates; issue more stock to pay for the essential upgrades. Thus passing the cost to the company’s owners and not to the consumers who are in no way responsible for PG&E’s poor maintenance and lack of technology upgrades.

  175. People laughing at Tesla owners who have no electricity should contemplate gas stations can’t pump gas without electricity. The only people who are sitting pretty are those with solar panels on their roofs.

  176. @Lisa Many solar installations shut down when utility power is off; the reason, they would be putting power into lines that utility workers may be repairing. Only solar and wind installations with no connection to the grid at all, can operate when power is out. Standby generators normally have an automatic transfer switch, so the generator is not used until there is no utility power, and turns off when it is detected again. Since solar installations often provide more power than is needed for the house, there needs to be a way to either store the excess capacity or "dump" it. One would think solar installers would provide for this contingency, but most seem not to.

  177. @Lisa Hi People should realize that solar panels equipment will be necessary in the next future, if not now, and do'nt rely on power grid.

  178. The wind speed is at present 12 mph for most of Sonoma County and Contra Costa County and 10 mph in Santa Clara County. It is 25 mph in Solano County. By any standard, this is no way to run a utility.

  179. 90% of wildfires are caused by human carelessness or stupidity--live cigarette butt6s, out-of-control campfires, etc. 10% are caused by downed power lines. Utilities are held liable for the fires caused by their lines. Those liabilities are particularly high when people die. Because dozens of deaths have been caused by downed power lines, PG&E is teetering and is effectively passing on the costs to hundreds of thousands of its customers. Most of the victims of power line wildfires have been elderly and/or disabled and unable to get out of harms way. It seems obvious to me that evacuating several hundred vulnerable elderly and disabled makes a lot more sense than cutting power to hundreds of thousands.

  180. I'm guessing this massive shutdown is driven mostly by PGE's lawyers, wanting to avoid any more liability for fires attributable to their outside plant -- cable, wires, transformers. For this, they cause millions of dollars of damage in delays, closed schools and public services, dangerous intersections. I hope they get sued by some of the businesses and jurisdictions disrupted by their overly zealous preemptive shutdowns.

  181. A longtime California resident who's seen these wildfires up close, I'm writing this from an area currently affected by the power outage: California needs a massive infrastructure project to underground existing electrical lines. However, it would cost tens of billions. Who will pay? Small-scale undergrounding in areas I've lived in has been a split cost between homeowners and the city but cities are reluctant to take this significant expense on. It needs to be a statewide initiative that has the full support of the state gov't and taxpayers. Meanwhile, I am seeing massive complaining on social media and neighborhood sites about this power outage, including from many people who actually think PG&E should wait until the minute the "bad wind" starts right by their home. God forbid they should be inconvenienced for a few extra hours to be sure things are safe. I can only assume they did not live through any of the previous devastating fires as I and many other Californians have. If they had, they would understand that as massively inconvenient as this outage is, a huge conflagration is far more inconvenient. Not to mention lethal. And these are the same people who would be the first to complain AFTER such a fire that PG&E and others didn't do enough to prevent it. And this is the kind of mentality that the state is up against in trying to deal with this enormous problem.

  182. @Nelle Engoron Kill the useless high speed train program and invest those dollars in improving the safety of the state’s electric grid.

  183. Cut power to hundreds of thousands and incite public rage? Or keep power and be liable to billions of dollars in damage should the equipment start a fire? Tough decision. Also, that's why top management has to be paid top dollars, otherwise no one wants to make that decision. This is like playing an erroneously designed sudoku, where there's no way to make the numbers work. The only solution is to fix the whole system.

  184. @William Fang It obviously doesn’t matter what they do. The humidity is near zero and we have winds on the peaks above 30 mph and down swells as it crests the mountains. The territory is covered in trees several hundred feet tall, dry grasses and there is fall leaves on the ground. We have a red flag warning. To not shut off the power would be a liability. They have no real alternative. We are having longer dryer summers with zero humidity winds. Stop complaining. There is no answer or solution. It isn’t that infrastructure fails. It’s that in dry wind and overhead lines can create sparks as debris fall across them or push the into each other. What used to be a wet climate is now heading towards desertification.

  185. Will this be the moment when Californians beg for rate increases that PG&E wanted all along so that the transmissions lines can be buried underground (as they probably should have been in the first place)?

  186. @Marie Californians who have informed themselves about PG&E's deplorable practices over the years, will beg to have the company's board and upper level management dismissed and the 'utility' taken over.

  187. The cost of hardening the system to tolerate seasonal winds would probably have been less than the economic losses caused by the shutdown.

  188. @Don This is orders of magnitude less economic cost than hardening all the transmission and distribution lines through wildfire prone areas, which would cost 10s of billions.

  189. @Don In some places, the benefits of hardening outweigh the shutdown, but not all. And yes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but the reality is that hardening the system will take years. Should hardening the system be done? Absolutely. But given the conditions right this minute in California, the power should be shut down in high risk areas. The costs of the fires last year were massive as well. Hopefully this pain will get all the parties to focus on solutions that we can begin to implement.

  190. Anti-trust legislation would have prevented this. $11 billion was spent on settlements when they could have addressed the decrepit infrastructure for far less. This was likely a calculated move. Skip the upkeep, pay the fine, play the victim, and then force rate increases to do the maintenance that should have been part of the service in the first place (possibility of State bailout money too?) The rate payer loses coming and going.

  191. Everyone involved in the management of PG&E's maintenance and safety areas, as well as the top-level management, should be in jail by the end of next year. The chances of PG&E suddenly being the cause of all these fires are slim. I'd bet that further research would expose a pattern of such incidents going back 20 years. I lived in the Tahoe/Sierra area for 15 years and a lot of fires had some pretty suspicious explanations. Next up? A government bailout for PG&E while their management lives high on the hog with the money they "saved" by not keeping their system, and their customers, safe.

  192. As that Danish legislator pointed out after the president lashed out at Denmark, there are fewer hours of lost power per year per customer in Denmark than in the USA. Infrastructure, anyone? Climate change, anyone? Bloated defense, unable to protect the nation from foreign attacks on its democracy (or on 9/11 for that matter), bloated corporations, and dysfunctional day to day life for millions of citizens, day after day, somewhere or another in the nation. Priorities would seem to require reordering, but, along with the president, who is required to communicate with the Congress only once a year but spends all day tweeting about it, the Senate, in particular, would rather be in recess and then disappear, only resurfacing when they feel like appearing on TV again, as if giving interviews to the media were what they were paid $174,000 + all those perks for. I never got to hire staff to help me with my job. They do. Why? If they have time to go on TV or hobnob with lobbyists, they have time to manage with less staff and work in their offices fulfilling their duties instead, spending less time opining and catering to donors, a task the American taxpayers do not ask them to carry out or pay them for.

  193. Since this is the New York Times, here's a message for New Yorkers: Pay attention to the Ghost of Christmas future. From what I've read, the Indian Point nuclear power plant north of NYC supplies about 25%% of the city's electricity. In April, 2020, about half a year from now, one of the two nuclear reactors at Indian Point will shut down forever. One year later, in April 2021, the second reactor will shut down. The decision to close Indian Point was made by Gov. Cuomo; a nuclear facility close to NYC poses risks, and the decision may have been correct. If there's a source of replacement power. The lost power was supposed to be replaced by natural gas generation. But natural gas is a fossil fuel. The city and state politicians and environmentalist have repeatedly blocked the construction of new natural gas pipelines. Solar power and renewable energy can only go so far, particularly since there's presently no easy means of storing energy for when the sun isn't shining. The proposed Storm King Mountain pumped storage facility was blocked by environmentalists during the 1970's. Today, there is a shortage of natural gas in the New York area; I believe Consolidated Edison is not allowing new natural gas connections in many areas because of the shortage. Until recently, Mayor De Blasio was busy running for President. Now that he's back, he badly needs to do the math and be sure the lights (and elevators) don't go out in NYC in a year or so.

  194. @Alex I know of at least one gas-powered plant north of NY City being built to make up for this coming shortage. Smartly, it is being built right next to an existing long-distance gas main, and close to existing transmission lines. The Con Ed gas issue affects new residential usage in the city and immediate Westchester suburbs.

  195. My sister lives in N Ca in one of the areas blacked out so she had to recently buy a gas powered generator for these events in order to power the pump for her well as well as freezer and fridge. How much emissions are now coming from all those generators running round the clock while the power is out? It’s not like electricity is a luxury anymore, not to mention how many of those might catch fire as well especially since most us use them are not electricians themselves. PG&E is just punishing the public for their bankruptcy.

  196. @John Doe Your last sentence ABSOLUTELY hits the nail on the head. PG&E, SoCalEdison and San Diego Gas/Elec are using these "preventative power outages" to retaliate against customers for the fact that they (the companies) are not being allowed to force the rate payers to pay for the companies' negligence or malfeasance. Just this week, SDG&E lost its last appeal to stick rate-payers with a $390+ million bill in penalties it still owes for the devastating 2007 fire storms that were sparked by the companies' equipment. The attitude of all three companies is: We'll make you so miserable, you'll be willing to pay anything, no matter how corrupt our behavior.

  197. @John Doe Um, solar?

  198. Rebecca, because maybe my sister up in Georgetown still might need running water after the sun goes down? People on their own well water don’t use hand pumps anymore like grandma used to but now they need electricity all the time for the pump motor to give the house water pressure.

  199. For years, utility companies have been allowed to get away with charging customers for capital improvements -- things like maintaining wiring, relocating equipment underground, updating technology -- all while rewarding shareholders with large dividends. Ratepayers have been left holding the bag for interest on debt for money that was borrowed not to improve infrastructure, but to buyback shares. Enough is enough. Rate increases to pay for necessary capital improvements should be suspended and these companies forced to modernize. Had management maintained the infrastructure as needed, we would never have gotten to this point. Utility board members who've allowed this to happen should be removed from their positions. These companies are granted a monopoly to provide service. In exchange for guaranteed customers, they should be required to fulfill their obligation to provide safe and reliable service. Cutting off power for a week because the wind might blow hard is ludicrous.

  200. PG&E has failed over many decades to properly maintain their easements and encroaching vegetation so now, their only solution is to disrupt the lives of more than a million people so they avoid further liability for their negligence. Worse, they can't even be specific. I got an email that says the power is out at my address, or it soon will be. (It's not. Not yet.) And it may be out for 48 hours. Or it may be out for several days. Of course, after the windy conditions abate, they won't restore power. They'll still have to go around the service area to inspect the power lines for damage. I live in the flat lands, in a residential neighborhood with well-spaced trees lining the street. I don't see where the danger is. It would help a great deal if we knew what to expect.

  201. @Occupy Government ~ Your neighborhood is part of a huge and complicated network.

  202. Rather than innovate and update, PG&E would rather cut the power to nearly a million customers. This is a glaring example of the vulnerability of our nation's - outdated - power grid.

  203. PG&E has postponed maintance for years, or they just don't ever do any. Just look at any electrical pole. It is a tangle of live wires amoung a tangle of abandoned ones. I have a rotted pole on my block that they cut away from the ground, braced and bolted it to a new pole and they are both a huge mess of wires. All of the insulation is long gone. If this was in your house the city, mortgage company, etc. would never give a permit or approval.

  204. Weather here cool with no wind & high humidity & yet PGE ignores that fact & shuts down large areas where there are no safety issues. Lots of angry people here. But no alternative other than unethical PGE.

  205. @Elizabeth Answer: Solar + batteries. If you live in a house, stop relying on PG&E for power.

  206. @Abby The hazardous weather conditions predicted by PG&E statewide have not (yet) come to pass. They keep pushing back the time frame - apparently it will get windy later today ... maybe. I'm skeptical.

  207. This is the cream of American Business today? The guys who know all the answers, take all the risks, get all the money... Now, like their fellow-failed and fraudulent corporation Enron, they have shut down California. Like Enron, there's a better than fair chance they will be killing off a customer or two as they laugh about the excellence of their strategy. This badly managed monster can't manage to bury cables. Can't manage to trim trees. Can't manage to live in the state it dominates economically and politically so, of course, they turn it into rural India, to out back Ecuador, ravaged Puerto Rico. Except, of course, they still want California money. If ever there was reason to crush a corporation, to kill it, take its money and its assets and hand them to some reasonably competent other set of managers, this is the one. Or maybe keep it for the state and its long suffering, undeserved people. Time to remind all their investors, every single one, of brokers run that "past performance is no..." boilerplate every chance they get. You made your choice. You took your investment shot. You lost. Everything. This company should be so gone by now. Its not as if there's nobody else desperate to take over the business, and far better qualified.

  208. @oogada And the shut down will pressure the PUC to allow PG&E to raise consumer rates to pay for the suits against them. But the consumers are not to blame for the past and future fires. You are correct, while the owners of PG&E stock hope for a positive return of their stock investment, it is they who bear the risk of poor performance by the company. And in this case, PG&E’s maintenance has been extraordinarily poor over the years. The PUC should not allow consumer rate increases. Instead, they should force PG&E to issue addition stock shares sufficient to cover their losses in court, thereby diluting the value of the outstanding stock passing the losses on to those who should bear the risk.

  209. Hedy ... what did PG & E do with their tax cuts from Trump?

  210. I just moved from California, having lived there all my life, and I can tell you that this is a smoke screen by PG&E who has refused to cut a path around their power lines through the trees, which used to be a never ending job that was taken seriously. Now the policy is to shut off power to large swaths of the population while making up stories about how relatively moderate wind can blow down power lines, rather than swinging branches and falling trees. If PG&E is unwilling to provide reliable electrical service aerially then they should be required to place it underground, and please don't respond with myths about constant earthquakes, which are very rare, mostly localized, and a minor consideration compared to electrical contact with trees. I know many PG&E linemen who are disheartened by the profit-above-all-else attitude of their employer, who deserve all the negative press they get. There is no substitution for preventive maintenance, regardless of how much it costs. If PG&E refuses to provide service to their paying customers they should be put up on the auction block or taken over by the State.

  211. So what happens now if a fire sparks in one of these areas without power? How will word get out about it and where to go? Can't turn to the local TV news, that's for sure. I can just imagine the disorderliness of traffic signals are also down. And more chaos at night with no street lights.

  212. @AJ believe the old school solution is a hand-crank, battery-powered or car radio. There are also hand-cranked cell phone chargers to stay online (likely sold out in the short term). I think mine was about forty bucks.

  213. We are definitely going solar ASAP! Too bad the Trump administration has cut funding to alternative power research and increased tariffs on solar panels made in China. We need to decentralize the power grid and make it more local using alternative power sources. W

  214. It's really cool that the couple that work for a dot.com (even if it is Walmart) live on the coast and can take the time off and surf -- but is that a good representation of the impact of this? Honestly?

  215. “Avoid driving if at all possible,” That advise works in Chicago and New York where public transit is everywhere but I didn't think it was as prominent in areas of central and northern CA. I worry for folks who are on respirators and other medical equipment which requires power. Somehow turning off power which effects 500,000 of the 800,000 customers to help prevent fires creates different and other problems for people. If "more than half of all counties in California — 34 out of 58 — are expected to be affected by the power cut" it sounds like a major set of disasters on a different scale. The very best of luck to all CA residents who will be effected by this power cut. May you and your loved ones be safe.

  216. The state is requesting that drivers stay off the roads to reduce the risk of accidents because traffic signals and railroad crossing gates will not be operational during the outage.

  217. @Marge Keller I would think that PG&E should supply, free of charge, genertors for anyone requesting one. How does one stock up on food, have warm water for bathing, and as you pointed out, run necessary medical equipment in homes?

  218. @Marge Keller I agree this is an outrage. I'd also point out that PG&E's actions impacts 500K to 800K *accounts* -- this equates to millions of actual people, I believe on the order of 2.5 million.

  219. How will hospitals be dealing with this for five days? What about people who rely on oxygen machines in their own homes? Scrambling for fuel and generators sounds like a disaster in the making.

  220. @Liza Hospitals have generators so they can deal with power outages. People who need power for oxygen machines or to keep medications refrigerated were warned months ago to get a backup generator. Keeping fuel around for this sort of event is more hazardous than the event itself. There were lines at gas stations yesterday as people filled their cars and storage containers for fueling generators but it certainly wasn't a disaster, more like an inconvenience - waiting 5 minutes for a pump instead of just driving right up.

  221. I wish the report would have included details or links to information about PG&E's many failures to maintain equipment and respond to outages and breakdowns. It's an outrage that their new CEO has a compensation package that is twice that of his predecessor, and that despite being in 'bankruptcy', the company plans to pay out millions in bonuses this year.

  222. What I don’t understand though is why everyone seems to need to rush to the store and buy out all the flashlights, batteries, water etc every time a weather disaster is forecast or, in this instance, a planned power outage? Why not maintain an emergency kit that contains flashlights, batteries, battery operated radio, solar charger for phones, water, food etc? One could assemble something like this for a reasonable cost and just keep the contents up to date. This would eliminate the big run on stores and the resultant bare shelves and frayed nerves. Just sayin......

  223. @Greenie CA doesn't get weather disasters like New England. A go bag for fires and earthquakes but not the 'shelter in place' storms we see here

  224. Are santa clara and san fransisco really in danger from fires due to poorly maintained transmission lines? Those areas are densely populated and have major roads. This is some of the most expensive real estate in the world... This locations shutdown sure sounds political.

  225. @The Ed - Santa Clara County has hilly and heavily forested areas, mostly affluent neighborhoods and nature preserves. They make up the eastern flank of the Santa Cruz mountains. I believe San Francisco is not affected by the outages.

  226. wildfires now easily jump eight lane freeway, even jump lakes. I wouldn't ever suggest anywhere surrounded by wildfire risk is safe just because it is urban. By the way, houses burn faster and spew far more more toxins in the air than forest fires.

  227. Marin County is absolutely at major risk for fires. The City of SF is not losing power.

  228. This totally feels punitive, like "you're going to hold us responsible for the fires? well we're going shut off your power!" PG&E couldn't do maintenance, because it might have cut into their shareholder returns! So, they have to just stop providing power whenever they feel like it. This is why utilities and infrastructure shouldn't be privately held. Deregulation was a terrible mistake, and "public-private partnerships" are a complete scam. Thanks a bunch Ronald Reagan!

  229. I suspect that over the years those in charge of the utility's maintenance have had their bonuses determined on how much they came in under budget.

  230. Are they still charging for them?

  231. This has got to be the most idiotic thing I have heard of. Because of years of misuse of funds and no attention to moving wires underground, or proper maintenance of the poles, and surrounding natural environment, they are now pulling power traffic lights etc from the public. I know that the infrastructure in the United States is bad across the board. But this is just unbelievable. I guess the only thing the public in these areas can do is get generators, as the politicians appear to be not at all concerned.

  232. @marie I wonder how much air and noise pollution will be coming from all those generators? How many fires will occur when gas cans are knocked over or gas spilled?

  233. @marie This what extractive capitalism looks like.

  234. @marie Yes you are right. And those gas-powered generators are -- wait for it -- huge fire hazards. The irony. PG&E is a shameful excuse for a utility.

  235. Maybe we need Trump to impose Federal regulations to prevent these types of problems. Yeah, right.

  236. It's simple extortion. PG&E says that if they will be held liable for their incompetence, they just won't supply any services at all. It is almost certain that the economic losses caused by this shutdown will far, far exceed damage caused by limiting the power outages to really high risk areas when the winds actually start to blow.

  237. PG & E and SCE announced their intention to do power shutdowns during wind events right after the State refused to grant them complete immunity from liability when their poorly maintained equipment caused fires. Coincidence? Ha, ha! They are putting pressure on the State to give them immunity by making customers angry. It's corporations wielding their power, folks.

  238. Yep, clearly an act not for safety but attention. It is not yet windy and yet power is out.

  239. @The Poet McTeagle Do you think that it is possible to have well maintained equipment that in heavy winds the lines can still come down, causing a spark in dry tinder and start a fire ?

  240. @The Poet McTeagle You got it exactly right. This is a cynical ploy to force the hand of the governor (who is not doing himself any favors by playing into this PG&E manufactured farce).

  241. I feel like I’m bracing for The Purge: Power Outage. We’re in the Bay Area and still have power, but I'm holding my breath. Despite checking PG&E's website, I'm still not sure if our neighborhood will be impacted. Information has been rather scattershot. And I only got word of the impending outage on Monday - not much time to plan for it.

  242. Plan and stay alert and planned. You will need it. Different world these days. It’s part of “interesting times.”

  243. It's way past time to put power lines underground. PEPCO, in DC at least, has started that process. Less profit, more infrastructure.

  244. @OnlyinAmerica You have no idea what sort of terrain or conditions this is talking about. The lines are underground in the city. That is not the problem. Take a look at California on a map - it is roughly 700 miles by 200 miles in size, and some of that is isolated and rugged.

  245. @OnlyinAmerica The issue isn't distribution lines in cities; it's high voltage transmission lines outside of cities. Those are never buried for several reasons, one being cost. By the way, the transmission lines leading to DC are above ground. (I work in the electricity/power sector)

  246. @Multimodalmama A. Lines are not underground in cities - at least not in much of SF. PG&E has a long history of poor management and lax maintenance - often in the places most dangerous to residents. They should be required to underground all of their local distribution lines - regardless of terrain - and their shareholder - not ratepayers should pay for that.

  247. We are ready. IF nothing else this will show that the fires of last were NOT caused by a PGE errant spark, but by climate change. Bring it on .

  248. How does a a state like California end up with a third world level power utility? PG&E fails to maintain power lines which then cause fires so the solution is to turn off power to prevent fires? The officers of PG&E should be out there pruning tree's back and replacing lines

  249. Many hundreds (or thousands) of miles of wires through places that are nearly impossible to access with the machines and people needed.

  250. @cynicalskeptic Power companies should not be allowed to be publicly traded. PGE's first responsibility is to shareholders, not customers.

  251. @cynicalskeptic 3rd world power grids are something that literally is down for all or part of the day.... EVERY SINGLE DAY of the year. When they are up... they typically are subject to rolling brown outs at random times as well. The power grid in California certainly needs regular maintenance and repair.. but calling it a 3rd world grid.. is just mindless nonsense.

  252. You crash the company into bankruptcy because of the wild fires, they pull the plug so as not to do that again. Seems like a reasonable response by the electric company.

  253. The real story here is the manufactured nature of the "crisis" that PG&E insists it is averting. However, the weather in northern California today is mild (mid-70s) and mostly windless, just another normal fall day, probably cooler and calmer than most. We had far hotter and windier weather last week. PG&E's actions are intended to do one thing: cover them from further legal liability -- and ironically puts many Californians in actual danger, especially customers who rely on power for life-maintaining equipment.

  254. If NOAA issues a severe wildfire threat warning even before its Red Flag Day warning, then I think the weather you experienced this morning is likely not going to be the weather tonight.

  255. @Bob Egerton Check the national weather service reports for California. There are high winds expected for the next 2 to 3 days in the foothills and low lying mountains.. where powergrids are in abundance as they route power to large urban centers. We are talking projected winds of up to 60 miles per hour.. and VERY dry conditions.. which means one live power line dropping due to wind damage onto dry foliage an we have a potential repeat of Paradise.

  256. So they say. We’re still waiting. Alameda county shutoff now delayed until 8pm. Want to bet they call it off after their panic inducing warnings? PG&E needs to be far more nimble and far more granular in terms of turning power off. Global shutdowns impacting millions of people is not an acceptable answer to some dry winds in the Central Valley. That is the norm this time of year. Still cool and calm around the entire bay....