California electrical utilities and government has failed on forest management and failed on managing the electrical grid. PG&E will regularly cut power from September to February each year for the next 14 years to around 2 million people. Another 1 million will get regular power cuts from Southern California Edison.
The forest mismanagement means that many communities and houses are at risk of being burned. The electrical grid and growth around power lines has been poorly maintained for decades.
There needs to be a national emergency declared and the national guard deployed to assist in clearing trees and growth. National Emergencies were already declared to fight wildfires but the deployments need to be used to get the maintenance under control.
People in the most fire-prone areas are already experiencing their second multi-day mass-blackout event. Power outages could end up being 10-30% of the time during the fire season.
Millions of Californians in fire-prone areas (NAPA, Sonoma, parts of LA) clearly cannot rely on PG&E and Southern California Edison for power. About 500,000 people in Northern California are again without electricity. PG&E cut power again. Southern California Edison has cut power to about 15,000 customers early in the day and warned that almost 300,000 more could see preemptive outages. Each customer is a household or business with an average of 2.5 people. So 300,000 customers is 750,000 people.
If we ballpark the economic impact, we have 1 million people losing power in Northern California 15% of time for 4 months and 1 million people in Southern California losing power 5% of the time for 4 months. This would be 24 million person-days of power outages every year. This would be about 0.8% of California’s GDP or about $13 billion.
There was $30 billion in fire-related property damage in the past two years that was caused by PG&E.
The weather service warned that low relative humidity and gusty winds will continue to lead to dangerous conditions favorable for the spread of wildfires across sections of northern California on Thursday. Another round of strong winds –which the weather service is calling “the strongest wind event so far this fall” – is forecast for Sunday and Monday, which could lead to more preemptive outages.
California’s government of forest management service has not done enough controlled burns to create half-mile wide fuel breaks to prevent fires from getting too large or to create zones to protect cities and towns.
Fire-season can last for 3-5 months.
PG&E has said that they will need 10-14 years to bury power lines and get on top of the tree and growth around poorly maintained power lines. The PG&E website warns of preventative power blackouts and for customers to make their own plans. PG&E plans are to continue to fail for 10-14 years. California’s government has failed. Both have failed for decades but they were acutely aware of the obvious issues with three years of bad wildfires and they have still made no progress.
Customers have to plan and install their own long-term viable electrical alternatives (solar roofs with inverters to allow grid isolation and large battery storage).
California voters need to vote in new leadership that will get the emergency level activity needed to get forests fixed in 1 year and to force the break-up PG&E.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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