- Pacific Gas & Electric instituted its first Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) over the weekend, cutting power to approximately 22,700 customers in two events across five California counties, as wind speeds were forecast to accelerate.
- The proactive shutoffs are designed as a last-resort measure in times when there is a high risk of sparking a wildfire; state regulators approved utility mitigation plans, including PSPS guidelines, less than two weeks ago.
- PG&E on Sunday said it was still working to return power to affected customers, and that the process could take up to two days.
The Sand Fire in California is still burning, a sign the state's disastrous wildfires represent the "new normal." While the utility power shutoff program is intended as a last resort, PG&E has had to utilize the tool twice.
In the Sierra Foothills, PG&E turned off power to about 20,500 customers in Butte and Yuba counties on Saturday night. In the North Bay, early Saturday morning, PG&E turned off power to approximately 1,700 customers in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties.
The utility said Sunday it has "restored power for nearly all customers" related to the Sierra Foothills event. The utility said it has patrolled approximately 800 miles of overhead power lines, and during those inspections, crews found "instances of damage to de-energized equipment caused by the extreme weather event and are making necessary repairs."
In the North Bay, the power was back on for all customers by Saturday night.
All of California's utilities are facing wildfire threats, and have worked together to educate the public about the proactive blackouts. Wildfires in the last two years have exposed utilities to billions in liability. PG&E entered bankruptcy following the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons, facing billions in liability partly because of the state's inverse condemnation rules.
Last month, a draft report from California's Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery recommended changing those rules for utilities.