PG&E confirms plan to move forward with power shutoff

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric on Oct. 23 confirmed its plan to move forward with a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in portions of the Sierra Foothills and North Bay, as well as small parts of San Mateo and Kern counties.

PG&E said that the PSPS decision was based on forecasts of dry, hot and windy weather that poses a higher risk for damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread.

The shutoff was expected to impact approximately 179,000 customers in 17 counties: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba.

PG&E said that the shutoffs were expected to begin around 2 p.m. in the Sierra Foothills, 3 p.m. in the North Bay counties, and approximately 1 a.m. Thursday in affected areas of San Mateo and Kern counties.

The utility said that forecasts indicated the peak period of winds should end about noon Thursday in the Sierra Foothills, North Bay and San Mateo County, and around noon Friday in Kern County.

“Once the high winds subside, PG&E will inspect the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event, and then restore power. PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring the vast majority of customers within 48 hours after the weather has passed,” the utility said on its website.

“It’s important to remember that customers not impacted by the PSPS may experience power outages due to PG&E equipment damaged during this wind event; those customers will not be notified in advance,” the utility said.

“It is also very possible that customers may be affected by a power shutoff even though they are not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their specific location. This is because the electric system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.”

PG&E on the afternoon of Oct. 21 began 48-hour advance notifications to customers that it may be proactively turning power off for safety and conducting a PSPS on late Wednesday evening.

That warning came after the utility earlier this month initiated a massive power shutoff that has drawn the attention of state utility regulators.

At an Oct. 18 hearing, commissioners with the California Public Utilities Commission said that PG&E fell short in several areas related to a recent massive power shutoff intended to prevent wildfires caused by high winds taking down power lines and asked officials with the utility to explain how they intended to fix the problems going forward.

Facing billions of dollars in wildfire-related liabilities, PG&E Corporation and its primary operating subsidiary, PG&E, on Jan. 29 filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California.

Southern California Edison

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison, a subsidiary of investor-owned Edison International, “is warning that it could cut power to some 162,000 customers in six counties on Thursday and Friday,” Los Angeles-based KTLA 5 reported on its website on Oct. 22.

San Diego Gas & Electric

As of the morning of Oct. 23, San Diego Gas & Electric, a subsidiary of investor-owned Sempra Energy, said that there were no Public Safety Power Shutoffs taking place in SDG&E's service area encompassing San Diego and southern Orange counties.

“However, we remain on high alert for the next round of Santa Ana winds forecasted to come through the region Thursday and Friday,” SDG&E said on its website.

On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 22, SDG&E notified approximately 24,000 customers in high fire risk areas that they could potentially be affected Public Safety Power Shutoffs. These notifications were made via multiple channels: outbound dialer calls, text messages, and emails.