California energy company PG&E CEO says it will take 10 years for blackouts to stop

Last week, nearly 800,000 Californians spent three days without power. And according to the CEO of California energy company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), it will take a decade before its customers can expect the blackouts to stop.

California rocked by blackouts

California energy company PG&E is facing significant backlash after it turned off the power to hundreds of thousands of homes last week. The planned outages on windy days are reportedly a safety measure guarding against igniting or exacerbating wildfires.

However, PG&E initiating a Public Safety Power Shutoff unexpectedly at 3:30 in the morning sparked ire from politicians as well as customers.

The latest shutoff came right on the heels of rolling blackouts that plunged as many as 2 million customers into darkness for similar conditions just two weeks ago.

California blackouts hurt residents and businesses

Public Utilities Commission (PUC) President Marybel Batjer said, “What we saw play out by PG&E last week cannot be repeated.”

“You said we need to get there. You need to get there now — not at the end of the year,” Batjer continued.

“How many counties have you talked to since last week? How many county managers? Or how many direct EOC managers have you called and said, ‘Oops, we blew it.’ And we’re gonna have a better relationship and it’s going to start today.”

And Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom, who never misses a chance to condescend to corporations anyway, said the shutoffs are “unacceptable.” As well as called for PG&E to issue $250 credits to businesses and $100 rebates to individual homes.

And, of course, businesses closed and workers lost out on wages.

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PG&E responds to California lawmakers

In response to the backlash, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson took a more measured approach and said while they’ll consider rebates, it would set a bad precedent.

Most energy companies bill for usage or projected use based on previous averages. So, no one is getting billed for energy not used.

The Democratic, anti-capitalist California lawmakers took every opportunity to point the finger of blame and greed on PG&E. However, Johnson maintains their only consideration was public safety.

“I have heard and read a lot of skepticism about our actions. I hear skepticism about whether the shutoff was truly necessary and whether the scope was too large; skepticism that we did this to save our own skin, rather than for public safety. The fact is we did this for one reason and that is safety,” Johnson said at a CPUC hearing on the power outages.

PG&E bankrupt

PG&E filed bankruptcy in January. Months later, an investigation into last November’s wildfires determined PG&E’s electrical lines started the blaze.

“We have more than a hundred confirmed cases of wind damage to our electric system — trees and branches and other things coming into contact with our lines and power lines on the ground,” said Johnson.

“These instances were widespread across the system. Contact of this type is known to cause ignition when lines are energized.”

California energy crisis

While PG&E is a private energy company, it’s also a utility under the purview of the PUC.

California is also a state with a drought problem due in part to the lack of a rainwater recapture system. And the traffic in Los Angeles is among the worst in the country.

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Yes, PG&E is responsible for shutting the power down, but they’re not the only ones to blame.

Perhaps if California lawmakers allowed people to trim their own trees, the job would get done a lot faster.

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