- Pacific Gas & Electric on Monday responded to criticism of its massive Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) last week, which is estimated to have impacted 2 million customers. The utility says it made the decision to keep customers safe, and notes that no "catastrophic wildfires" were started during the event.
- But Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, on Monday called for the utility to offer $100 rebates to residential customers and $250 to small businesses. He also directed state regulators to launch an investigation.
- The California Public Utilities Commission has given PG&E until Oct. 17 to file an after-action review, and to file weekly updates on a batch of corrective actions and concerns that include finding ways to minimize future events. Regulators have also directed top PG&E officials to appear at an "emergency meeting" on Friday to answer questions about the power shutoff program.
California officials reacted with outage on Monday to PG&E's power shutoff, but the utility stood by its decision and even state regulators seemed to acknowledge the difficult situation.
In a letter outlining new and renewed requirements for the utility's PSPS program, the CPUC said its precision would be limited "due to the size of PG&E's service territory, the design of its transmission and distribution network, and the lack of granularity in its forecasting ability."
But the commission did call for immediate corrective actions, including accelerating service restoration goals to less than 12 hours exploring ways to reduce the scope of future PSPS events; developing systems and protocols to improve notification of the public; and improving communication and coordination with county and tribal government emergency management personnel.
"Failures in execution, combined with the magnitude of this PSPS event, created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated," CPUC President Marybel Batjer said in a statement.
The power shutoff extended to 700,000 customers but impacted millions, Batjer said. "The scope, scale, complexity and overall impact to people's lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated,” she said.
PG&E responded in a statement Sunday, saying it welcomed the review and had executed the PSPS in accordance with its CPUC-approved wildfire mitigation plan.
"We appreciate the significant impact that turning off power for safety has on our customers and the state," said PG&E Corp. CEO Bill Johnson. "While we recognize this was a hardship for millions of people throughout Northern and Central California, we made that decision to keep customers and communities safe. That was the right decision."
But regulators pointed to "several problems" with communication and coordination surrounding the event, including identifying customers dependent on the grid for medical support, though PG&E says it worked with the CPUC, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) and Cal Fire. The utility did acknowledge shortcomings, however.
"We also worked closely with county and local officials throughout the PSPS," Johnson said. "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."
The utility's web site reportedly failed multiple times during the PSPS, and there were long wait times for customers calling in to help centers. CPUC's list of demands include "scaling of business operations" to ensure the utility is prepared for the volume of customers who will need help.
The commission also said PG&E "continues to fail at making available maps with clear boundaries of PSPS impact." Regulators want to see an improved map-sharing process developed with OES, and a process for distributing maps to local governments.
The commission has announced an "emergency meeting" for Friday, "to hear from top PG&E executives about what lessons have been learned from this latest event and what steps will be taken to ensure mistakes and operational gaps are not repeated."
"At a minimum," the commission directed eight PG&E officials to attend the meeting including: PG&E Corp. Chairman of the Board and former Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell; the utility's Chairman of the Board Jeffrey Bleich; PG&E Corp. CEO William Johnson; and utility CEO Andrew Vesey.