Less than 72 hours after an intense public grilling by the California Senate over the widespread planned power outages and general mismanagement by PG&E across Northern California, the utility company is yet again intentionally shutting off the lights.
The latest outage will shut off the power to 50,000 people immediately across 18 Northern California counties, followed by up to 200,000 throughout Wednesday. PG&E has said that the outages are necessary to control wildfires due to the combination of high winds and dry conditions.
But customers, most of whom have already been through at least a few other outages throughout the month, are fed up.
“We’re starting to rank them now,” said Donald Keeler, a retired college professor and resident of Nevada County. “They’re telling us we’ll have power back by Thursday or Friday, and that’s about average for us.”
“We’re actually starting to look into buying our own wind turbine or patch of solar panels so we can get our own power. They’re calling this the ‘new normal’, but I’m not having any of that. None of us here are.”
Keeler and his community are not alone. PG&E receives almost no confidence from the public over its performance during the last year, let alone the past few months. In addition to being bankrupt and still on the line for dozens of deaths during the 2018 Camp Fire, PG&E has found itself squaring off against the entire state. Not only have cities like San Jose and San Francisco been trying buy up PG&E property to start their own citywide power companies, but Governor Gavin Newsom has given until June of 2020 for PG&E to get itself out of bankruptcy and reorganize. If PG&E fails to do that, then the state would takeover the entire company.
PG&E’s announcement of further power outages this week are also fueling citizen support for further government action.
“This is another few days I’ll be out of business, and another few days of using an expensive generator,” said Laura Young, whose home business in the city of Loyalton has been disrupted again. “I lose a few hundred dollars each day in lost profits because of this. There have been petitions going around for the government to force PG&E to stop the blackouts and keep a manual watch for fires, because this is on them. That’s what we want from them, to stop passing the buck and treat their customers like people.”
Donald Keeler also said “If I have to hear that automated message from PG&E one more time I swear I’m going to lose it. I know they don’t want anymore fires, but we want our lives. Stop doing this to us for your shortfalls.”
The latest outage is expected to last for some customers until Friday. Neither Governor Newsom or state lawmakers have responded to the latest outage.