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article imageRegulator hits PG&E with sanctions over power shutoffs

By Karen Graham     Oct 14, 2019 in Environment
Sacramento - California's top utility regulator blasted Pacific Gas and Electric on Monday for what she called "failures in execution" during the largest planned power outage in state history to avoid wildfires.
California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) President Marybel Batjer wrote in a letter to PG&E CEO Bill Johnson that the utility "created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated," reports KCRA News.
Batjer said the utility must have a goal of restoring power within 12 hours instead of its current 48 hours, and minimize the scale of outages and improve communication. "The scope, scale, complexity, and overall impact to people's lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated," she added.
PG&E took the unprecedented step of cutting power to over 700,000 customers that ultimately affected over two million people. The utility cut off the power due to a dangerous wind forecast, however, they did acknowledge their execution was poor. reports CNBC News.
The PG&E website frequently crashed and many people claim they did not know the power was going out. "We were not adequately prepared," Johnson said at a press conference last week.
Additional requirements from the PUC
The PUC president also requires the utility to develop a better way to communicate with the public and local officials, as well as a system for distributing outage maps. And, she ordered the utility to work with emergency personnel to ensure PG&E staff are sufficiently trained.
PG&E has also been ordered to perform an audit of its performance during the outages that began Wednesday. Batjer noted that "the utility clearly did not adopt many of the recommendations state officials have made since utilities were granted the authority to begin pre-emptive power shutoffs last year."
Governor Gavin Newsom also criticized PG&E for its performance during the outage, blaming what he called "decades of mismanagement, underinvestment and lousy communication with the public." Newsom added that it was clear the utility implemented the power outages "with astounding neglect and lack of preparation."
On Monday, he also requested that the utility compensate customers affected by the prolonged power outage with a bill credit or rebate worth $100 for residential customers or $250 for small businesses.
Johnson, the PG&E CEO, responded in writing to Newsom's letter Monday, noting that no fires occurred during the power shut-off. He said he welcomes the PUC review, according to the Mercury News.
"We know there are areas where we fell short of our commitment to serving our customers during this unprecedented event, both in our operations and in our customer communications, and we look forward to learning from these agencies how we can improve," he wrote.
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