Home>Articles>PG&E Promises To Improve Communications After Backlash From Governor, PUC, Citizens

transmission lines (Wikipedia)

PG&E Promises To Improve Communications After Backlash From Governor, PUC, Citizens

PG&E reiterated that it can shut down power again for wildfire danger

By Evan Symon, October 18, 2019 4:10 pm

Pacific Gas and Electric has responded to criticism over shutting down power to over two million people in Northern California last week, promising that it will get better getting in touch with customers during future blackouts.

In a letter to state officials, PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson also said that his company knows what everyone went through and that they’re doing their best to make sure any future outages won’t have the same scale as last weeks outage.

Despite millions lost by businesses and workers in revenue and wages, as well as hardships the elderly and disabled had to endure, Johnson reiterated that the most important thing was that no new wildfires were reported last weekend.

PG&E Bill Johnson (Wikipedia)

“We ask our customers, their families and our local and state leaders to keep in mind the statistic that matters the most: there were no catastrophic wildfires,” wrote Johnson in the letter.

PG&E also outlined what it would do to help communicate better with customers. Last weekend, PG&E emergency centers scattered around the affected areas were packed with people simply trying to use the restroom or charge a phone. PG&E helplines were also stalled for hours.

Johnson said they would combat this in the future by working better with local governments to help people know when outages would occur, where they would happen, and for how long people would be without power for.

“We understand that the size and scope of this event is untenable in the long term,” said Johnson.

The letter from PG&E comes after numerous state officials have publicly condemned the company and a mandatory meeting between the company and state regulators planned for Friday. Officials have also called out the company for not doing enough to stop mandatory power outages becoming normal.

Governor Gavin Newsom. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“I’m outraged, because it didn’t need to happen,”said Governor Gavin Newsom last week in response to the outages. “They’re in bankruptcy because of their terrible management going back decades. They created these conditions.”

The Governor and other officials have conceded that the company had no other option than to shut down the power because of the wildfire risk, but they have also said they should not have let it get to that point.

The Globe reached out to former electrical safety inspector Ed Dawson, who worked similar inspections for utility companies to those done last weekend, to find out if PG&E did help create current conditions along its power lines.

“If they had regular inspections and knew exactly where danger areas were beforehand, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Dawson. “Maybe 50,000 wouldn’t have power for thirty minutes. Not millions over days. What they did should not have happened if they were just doing an average job.”

“This cannot become normal.”

Going into the regulator meeting Friday, the bankrupt PG&E is likely to bring up it’s finances to help protect itself from any damages, especially coming off of Governor Newsom’s announcement a few days ago calling on PG&E to give money to every blackout victim. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Evan Symon
Spread the news:


One thought on “PG&E Promises To Improve Communications After Backlash From Governor, PUC, Citizens

  1. Mr Dawsin misquoted the facts. “Millions of customers WERE NOT OUT OF POWER for DAYS!
    90% of the customers in the Bay area had their energy restored within 24 hours . The total amount of people out of power was about 600,000.
    I get the impression Mr Dawson does not understand the complexity of what goes into PGEs decision to do something as major as implementing a shut off. Meteorologists who work at PGE as well as other Departments related to public safety all work together. PGE have been installing weather stations in vulnerable tier 2 and tier 3 areas providing a multitude of important real time information necessary for determining operations that best address public safety.
    Tier 3 areas contain large swaths of higher altitude forestry. Tier 2 covers more of the tree covered hills.
    Restoring power requires quite an extensive set of operations starting with assuring high wind conditions didn’t leave broken tree branches on power lines, and assuring power lines are safe.
    The reality is climate change has made delivering power a much more dangerous task , especially in the areas like tier 2 and 3 that contain large swaths of dry and dead brush. There are so many factors that go into PGEs decision to do a public safety shut off that I highly doubt Mr Dawson understood, and yet, he made a very definitive conclusion. Since he IS retired it appears as though his findings are not consistent with the actual numbers and current (and updated) procedures.
    I am not a representative for PGE, but I AM a representative of the men and women who risk their lives daily to assure we all have electricity safely delivered into our homes and businesses.
    My husband has been with PGE for 35 years and a Journeyman-lineman for 30. He is a Troubleman who drives the “big blue bucket truck.” He is the one that comes to your home or place of business when your having Electrical problems.
    He and many men and women are the face of PGE.
    I must add that it is, at times, difficult for me to listen to people make conclusions when they, understandably, don’t have nearly all the information.
    Being that these men and women ARE the ones customers deal with, there have been incidents of customers taking out their frustration with PGE on them. Being shot at and having to endure, at times, pretty angry insults are the result of a lot of misinformation usually perpetrated by the media.
    So I write this only to give another point of view at what utility companies are up against. .
    My husband tells me they’ve implemented a rigorous maintenance program and have been updating slot of their equipment.
    Yes, there are those who will always hang onto the “should haves/could haves” but from my vantage point I see PGE really working hard to assure the safety of their customers.
    Thanks for allowing me to comment on your story.
    Tina Araquistain

    coordination with PGE’s meteorology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *