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PG&E Says More California Blackouts Could Be Coming This Week

PG&E Says More California Blackouts Could Be Coming This Week

Ahead of a dry and windy week in California, PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) is considering a precautionary blackout to prevent potential wildfires.

The power company announced Monday evening it may shut off power in 15 counties late Wednesday night. The outages would affect about 209,000 customers through the Sierra Foothills and North Bay.

Why It’s Important

It’s the second Public Safety Power Shutoff this month. The preemptive outages are becoming increasingly common for PG&E clients as the company seeks to reduce its liability for devastating sparks.

In the last few years, PG&E’s electrical infrastructure contributed to multiple wildfires. High wind events damaged live lines surrounded by dead and dying trees — ultimately leading to catastrophe. A series of related lawsuits led PG&E to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“The sole purpose of PSPS is to significantly reduce catastrophic wildfire risk to our customers and communities,” Michael Lewis, Senior Vice President of PG&E Electric Operations, said in a press release. “We know that sustained winds above 45 mph are known to cause damage to the lower-voltage distribution system and winds above 50 mph are known to cause damage to higher-voltage transmission equipment. As we saw in the last PSPS event, we had more than 100 instances of serious damage and hazard on our distribution and transmission lines from wind gusts of this strength.”

What’s Next

The company continues to work out kinks in its outage plans. Since its last shutdown in early October, it has enhanced its call center and website to accommodate high volume traffic, and it has opened community resource centers to provide affected customers water, restrooms, charging stations and air conditioning.

Management said last week it may take up to a decade to improve electrical systems to the point where it no longer needs preemptive blackouts.

The stock traded up marginally Tuesday morning.

Related Links:

$0 Or $40? PG&E Price Targets Reflect Uncertain Outlook On Wall Street

Large Option Trader Makes Bearish Long-Term Bets Against PG&E

A PG&E yard in San Francisco. Photo by Peter Merholz via Wikimedia


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