Power Execs Flip the Switch
In October 2018 PG&E cut power to 59,000 business and residential customers across a wide swath of Northern California in a test of their new blackout policy. In order to preemptively avoid fires, the plan is to shut power to entire trunks of the electrical grid during periods of high risk.
True Concern or Threat Tactics?
The conditions that favor wildfires: high heat, low humidity and strong winds, have been present at all 2017-2018 wildfires. High winds in particular are needed for fire to spread uncontrollably. When power was cut in October the winds were calm in most of the state. Witnesses who went days without power during low winds felt the move may been revenge or blackmail, some kind of threat rather than a safety precaution. The message PG&E may be sending is if they are being sued for billions of dollars of wildfire damage than many other customers will be made to suffer.
Public Cost of Private Interest
Numerous parties were harmed in October’s experiment: hotels, restaurants and farm operations experienced billions in losses. Grocery stores and commercial coolers lost their entire inventories of frozen goods. Patients with home dialysis machines, oxygen tanks and other equipment saw their lives endangered. Some areas went without water.
Have Cut Power For Profit
Many Californian’s remember the electricity crisis of 2000-2001, when California had a shortage of electricity caused by market manipulations. The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts which turned out to be fraudulently caused to present an artificial scarcity. The cost to public welfare was immeasurable.
Safeguards Against Power Giant Needed
Utility watchdog groups and irate customers are calling for rules for when and how to cut off power. A major component of PG&E’s preparedness plans going forward includes shutting off power to significant portions of the grid during fire danger. Critics of the plan say many millions of people will be affected downstream of the high transmission lines that are far away from any fire danger, and they point out that PG&E cannot be trusted to act in the public’s interest considering their past actions and that they are a for profit company deep in legal trouble and facing billions in fire liability debt.