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.
“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.
“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.