What is happening with PG&E?
As of October 8, PG&E is temporarily and preemptively turning off power services to some customers. This action has officially been deemed a public safety power shutoff, and has affected nearly 186,000 Bay Area customers during its first stage. PG&E anticipates outages could impact over 800,000 customers across Northern and Central California over the next few days, and while the utility company has engaged in similar plans before, it has never been on this scale or magnitude. Schools, government offices, businesses, and customers are being adversely impacted. More information can be found here.
Why is this happening?
PG&E says it is shutting off power to reduce the risk that its equipment will start wildfires in California. There is an imminent high wind advisory event with the potential to trigger power line sparking and fires. PG&E equipment has taken intensive blame in the past for starting destructive wildfires in California. The company was publicly criticized and financially penalized for involvement in the Camp Fire of Nov. 2018, the deadliest fire in state record. PG&E has also been held accountable for some of the 2017 North Bay Wildfires. The shut-off has left California's leaders and citizens outraged. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared, "(The people) should be outraged. They should be infuriated by this, and I recognize that, as we are. But here's the thing: This was anticipated many months ago. This is industry best practice...I think fundamentally that's why we're spending time here together, frustrated, outraged in some cases, anxious about public health, and public safety, and business interruption. But we anticipated this, and we're going to try to do everything we can to get through it." More public information and reactions can be found here.
Where is it happening?
This PG&E power shutoff is affecting vast swaths of Northern and Central California, including these Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano. San Francisco will not be affected. We have a full list of the affected areas and in-depth maps here.
How long will it last?
In short, there is no definitive timeline for the duration of these outages, and it may vary by region. PG&E has been telling those affected to plan to be without power for up to five days. After the fire risk passes, the company must inspect electrical lines and other equipment to make sure it is safe to turn power back on. These inspections can be lengthy, and while PG&E believes crews will start restoring services on October 10th, this schedule can change at any moment. More details and an estimated timeline can be found here.
What can I do?
To prepare for the upcoming power shortage, there are several steps you can take. We recommend keeping your smartphone fully charged, and preparing a robust external battery that can power your phone and multiple devices. It is also advisable to fill your gas tank, keep cash on hand, and prepare an emergency kit in the case of unexpected problems. For more information on preparing for this shutoff, go here.
Where can I get help?
If you need personal assistance as a result of the PG&E power shutoff, there are a number of resources available to you. PG&E has opened Community Resource Centers in affected areas, available during daylight hours with bottled water, charging stations, and bathrooms. Other major cities in the region will also be opening assistance centers to help those affected. A list of these facilities can be found here.
Will this happen again?
As of now, it is possible that similar shutoffs will happen again soon. urning off the power is PG&E's current plan to reduce wildfire risk, and California's fire season typically peaks around October and November. Given we may see more outages before the end of the year, this could only be the start of these outages until a new plan is created. For more information go here.
Will my power go out if I have solar panels?
7 on Your Side's Michael Finney tells us most solar power systems will be affected, as they generally do not have power storage units of their own. Experts at Solar Technologies informed us that most solar home-owners use the power grid like one big battery. When the grid goes down, the majority of solar homes go down, too. There are some home systems that have battery back-up systems; The Tesla PowerWall is probably the most well-known. But those storage systems are not cheap, starting at about $12,000.
For the latest stories about PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff go here.
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