PG&E Warns of Potential Second Planned California Blackout

Date : 10/22/2019 @ 3:19AM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PCG)
Quote : 6.26  -0.22 (-3.40%) @ 1:00AM
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PG&E Warns of Potential Second Planned California Blackout

Pacific Gas and Electric (NYSE:PCG)
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By Alejandro Lazo 

SAN FRANCISCO -- Californians are facing a potential second round of pre-emptive power outages, with the state's largest utility working to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires as hot, gusty winds are forecast later this week.

PG&E Corp. said Monday it might cut electricity to parts of 16 counties in the Sierra Foothills and north of San Francisco. About 200,000 households and businesses were notified that they might lose power starting late Wednesday, the bankrupt utility said.

At a press conference, PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson said shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of customers again might be necessary, given how much of its service area is considered under high fire risk by state authorities.

"We are really dealing with a new reality here," Mr. Johnson said. "It is certainly not a tool we like to use. It runs against the grain of why most of us ever got into this business, and we do understand it creates hardship and comes with its own potential safety issues."

Earlier this month, California's largest utility cut power to nearly 750,000 customers in a vast swath of the state from south of San Francisco to the Oregon border, generating widespread criticism from the public and politicians for poor communication before and during the blackout.

On Monday, PG&E said it would work to insure any outages would be less disruptive by coordinating better with local governments and customers. Mr. Johnson defended the large power cutoffs earlier this month as the right move.

"If you look at where the damage occurred on the system, it's exactly in the areas where we turned off the power," he said.

The shut-offs are undertaken because hot, gusty conditions can result in blown-over power lines and other hazards that can create sparks that start fires, which can spread rapidly and be difficult to contain.

Last week, Mr. Johnson said it could take up to 10 years for the company to improve its electrical systems enough that pre-emptive blackouts become largely unnecessary.

In recent years, PG&E's electrical systems have been found responsible for numerous destructive California blazes including the Camp Fire, which all but destroyed Paradise, Calif., killing 85 people and burning 95% of the town.

Write to Alejandro Lazo at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 21, 2019 23:04 ET (03:04 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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