The state of California continues its steep decline into anarchy as one if its main power companies, PG&E recently instituted blackouts affecting millions of residents. The company had been found libel for the destructive Paradise fires after an investigation concluded the fires had been caused by sparks from their above ground wires as they were battered around by severe wind events.
The lines should have long ago been put underground, but that wasn’t the extent of PG&E’s malfeasance. It has since come to light that executives have been kicking the maintenance can down the road for decades. There have been few upgrades and few routine maintenance checks for nearly 60 years while the company’s executives pocket huge pay-raises and profits. PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January after incurring $30 billion in libel costs. Over 100 people died in the 2017 and 2018 fires caused by their power lines.
Even after the blackouts incensed millions of Californians and became ridiculed in memes from across the country, the power behemoth is defending their move and now The Wall Street Journal reports that PG&E executives believe the “safety” blackouts could continue for much longer than expected.
PG&E Corp. PCG -0.89% ’s chief executive said Friday that it could take as long as 10 years for the company to improve its electric system enough to significantly diminish the need to pull the plug on customers to reduce the risk of sparking fires.
Bill Johnson, who joined the company in May, made the disclosure at a California Public Utilities Commission hearing where the panel’s president, Marybel Batjer, sharply criticized the company’s “inadequate execution” of a shut-off in which it turned off power to large portions of Northern California for more than two days last week.
The commission convened an emergency meeting to examine PG&E’s handling of the massive blackout, which left roughly two million people in the dark and created widespread havoc from the Bay Area to the northern reaches of the state. Several of the company’s top executives were summoned to detail the problems and take questions from regulators.
While Johnson reiterated that PG&E made the right decision regarding safety, he admitted that making the decision was not the same as executing that decision well. PG&E has to be better prepared than it was this time.”
Despite Governor Newsom calling for immediate accountability and residents all over the state outraged about being forced to unnecessarily go for days on end with no power, PG&E says they plan to move forward with future shutoff as they proceed to upgrade their power grid and clear fire-prone old growth from their 70,000 square mile service radius.
Worse yet, the company’s new CEO says the blackouts will undoubtedly continue for at least another decade.
Mr. Johnson said the utility is working to limit the scope of future shut-offs by trimming more trees and installing technology to enable the shutdown of smaller, more targeted portions of the grid. But he estimated it will take as long as a decade before its shut-offs will have “ratcheted down significantly.”
“I think they’ll decrease in size and scope every year,” he said. “But at the same time we’re doing this the risk is not static, it’s dynamic and it goes up every year.”
Already, PG&E is behind on several of its most important safety efforts, records show, including this year’s tree-trimming campaign, which is less than 50% complete. It also trails its peers in technology to track winds and isolate the areas where equipment is at highest risk of sparking fires.
Though the company warned of continued shut-offs, it is working to limit their duration.
Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations, said the company, which previously advised customers to prepare for shut-offs lasting as long as five days, will work to restore power within 48 hours after initiating a shut-off.
“We now recognize that five days as a benchmark is unacceptable,” he said.
Unacceptable seems like an understatement. Can millions of Californians accept third world power grid conditions for the next decade? Due to their own corruption and laziness, PG&E obviously has their work cut out for them to get up to speed. Perhaps there’s nothing to be done about who has to fix it. But the Hoover Dam was built in five years. In the digital age, electricity is the most valuable currency. Taking a decade to bury power lines and clear out brush is pathetic and totally avoidable in the nation that sent men to the moon in that same length of time.