Nov 22 (Reuters) – California utility PG&E Corp has imposed 10 intentional blackouts this year to reduce risks its power infrastructure could spark wildfires and said they will continue for a decade.
PG&E initially said outages would happen only a couple of times a year, but millions of Californians were hit by four massive shutdowns in October alone.
The outages started in June, growing in duration and scale, with the largest in state history occurring on Oct. 26, cutting electricity to around 2.8 million people over five daysb.
With six of the 10 most destructive fires in California history started by electrical equipment or power lines, PG&E says shutdowns are a needed measure during windstorms. The state’s largest utility filed for bankruptcy in January, citing $30 billion in civil liabilities from blazes, and says it cannot afford further penalties.
The company’s critics say Californians are paying for PG&E’s failure to upgrade infrastructure and want to see the company “harden” power systems, rather than close them down.
Has the United States ever seen anything like this?
(Classical reference in headline.)
California is staying true to its reputation as the land of innovation — it is making blackouts, heretofore the signature of impoverished and war-torn lands, a routine feature of 21st-century American life.
More than 2 million people are going without powerin Northern and central California, in the latest and biggest of the intentional blackouts that are, astonishingly, the Golden State’s best answer to the risk of runaway wildfires.
Electric power — and all the other goods it makes possible — is synonymous with modern civilization. It shouldn’t be a negotiable good for anyone living in a well-functioning society, or even in California, which, despite its stupendous wealth and natural splendor, has blighted itself over the past few decades with bad governance and misplaced priorities.
The same California that has been the seedbed of world-famous companies — like the ones that make it possible for people to send widely viewed short missives of 280 characters or fewer and share and like images of grumpy cats — isn’t doing so well at keeping the lights on.
The same California that has boldly committed to drawing half of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 — and 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 — can’t manage its existing energy infrastructure.
The same California that has pushed its electricity rates to the highest in the contiguous United States through its mandates and regulations doesn’t provide continuous access to that overpriced electricity.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has to try to evade responsibility for this debacle while presiding over it, blames “dog-eat-dog capitalism” for the state’s current blackout crisis. It sounds like he is referring to robber barons who have descended on the state to suck it dry of profits while burning it to the ground.