PG&E Forces Customers to Suffer Billions in Costs Because PGE Failed to Make Their System Safe

PG&E is choosing to create what could be among the worst power outages in US history. This is not an outage where the weather directly caused the outage. It was not a hurricane that broke power lines. The winds had gusts up to 45 mph in some areas but most of the areas did not have high winds. Most areas had gusts up to about 15 mph.

According to Electric Choice, the worst power outage in US history was the northeast blackout of 1965. This caused power loss for 30 million people for 13 hours. PGE chose to turn off power to 2 million people and this has already lasted for 2 days for many and could last for 5-6 days. A 6-day outage for 2 million people would be at the level of a 13 hour 30 million person power outage. PGE has indicated that they will take days to inspect the power lines and equipment before restoring power. This could also be one of the first of many optional power outages. The forecast is there will be high fire risk in October and November and significant risk could last until the end of January 2020.

PG&E is forcing billions of dollars in costs onto customers. PG&E is afraid of how dangerous they have left the electrical grid and lands that they are required to maintain.

PG&E customers will not get a shock because many have no electricity. PG&E customers just experience a shocking level of PG&E incompetence.

PG&E had $400 million per quarter of profits in 2017. They did not spend that money then to maintain their equipment or the land for which they are responsible.

The California government is allowing PG&E to shift costs onto people and businesses in California. PGE has experienced $30 billion in liability for fires over the last four years.

In January, PG&E filed for bankruptcy. In May, California investigators found PG&E power lines were responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire that fire virtually wiped out the town of Paradise, killing 86 people. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said that after a “very meticulous and thorough investigation,” it had determined that the Camp Fire was caused by “electrical transmission lines owned and operated” by PGE. PGE said in February that its equipment had probably caused the fire.

PG&E’s reorganization plan calls for a $20.4 billion fund that would allocate $12 billion for insurance claim holders and public entities that have settled with the utility, plus $8.4 billion for wildfire victims. The offer has been rejected by lawyers representing a committee of fire victims, who say the amount is insufficient to cover tens of thousands of claims from victims of fires sparked by PG&E equipment since 2015.

PG&E could be broken up. In September, San Francisco city officials offered $2.5 billion to take over the company’s local power generation equipment. PG&E is against “municipalization”.

PGE has admitted in federal court that its equipment probably caused 10 wildfires this year in Northern and Central California.

California had $20 billion in an annual budget surplus. California did not spend enough money on creating controlled burns to thin out the needed fire breaks.

PGE and the California government have not maintained and managed the forest and vegetation areas. It has been known for a hundred years that wide fire breaks are needed to stop fires from getting too large. This is the third year of recent major fire-related problems. The necessary steps to address this are nowhere near complete.


Nice business you here. Shame if something happened to it.

Nearly 1.5 million signatures are needed to get a recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom onto the 2020 ballot. This is about the number of voters who lost electrical power because of PGE. The only California Governor to get recalled was Gray Davis. The issue that caused the recall was power outages.

Insanely long outage

In the USA, the average duration of sustained electrical interruptions in 2006 was 106 minutes. In 2013-2015 in California, the average duration of sustained electrical interruptions was 148 minutes. PG&E is causing a sustained electrical outage 2880 minutes (2 full days) to 8640 minutes (6 days). This will be about 20 to 80 times longer than the average sustained electrical outage.

Various metrics for power outages:
CAIDI gives the average outage duration that any given customer would experience.
Duration of Sustained Interruptions, SAIDI

PG&E is giving customers (residential, commercial and industrial) across 28% of the San Francisco Bay Area 2 to 6-day electrical outages.

The calculator of the cost has a limit of 960 minutes for average outage duration. There seems to be the need to have a frequency of three to nine outages of 960-minute duration to calculate the cost of the on-purpose outage that PGE is forcing onto its customers.

44 thoughts on “PG&E Forces Customers to Suffer Billions in Costs Because PGE Failed to Make Their System Safe”

  1. Sure, Drake. Under Socialism it’d all be taken care of.

    Power down the lines, you’ll never have to worry about the fires.

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  2. So you are equating clear cutting with forest management? Is is kind of moot because most of this land is not prime timberland but scrub oaks and brush which has zero appeal to those that make these claims in hope to rape the a forest for their own gain. By the way, what California controls is the land not in Federal control. States have to request the right to manage any National Resources and it’s Congress that grants these rights such as Wildlife management which most state do. Just point me to California’s National Forest management agreement and I’l creed that they are to blame.

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  3. California is running into a perfect storm of rising energy costs from Expensive Renewables and now a system that will require very expensive hardening against NORMAL California winds…That is if they wish to keep their forest and brush lands “natural” without intelligent management (like they used to have FOR FREE before running the forestry industry out of town).

    PG&E spent their wad on uneconomical Renewable Energy Projects made possible only by even more uneconomical government subsidies. Now PG&E can’t afford to keep the grid at normal levels of repair…these NORNAL winds require very unusual maintenance levels (special hardening).

    Californians cannot put up with these interruptions forever. The grid WILL be hardened against the winds and earlier fire detection and suppression WILL happen. So will better forest management.

    They just need to put the ADULTS back in charge.

    That’s going to be expensive.

    Germany has electrical energy costs over 3X’s US. Picture $450/month compared to $150/month…AND THEY ARE LESS THAN 20% of the way towards CO2 Emissions goals. That’s where California was headed BEFORE the fire thing.

    Those kinds of energy costs are really bad for business and bad for the economy.

    This California Energy energy experiment should give us some interesting data.

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  4. California has to do far more than the two bills SB1260 and SB901. They have to blow up the bills and laws that restrict clearing and doing the burns. They need to be constantly burning with 100,000 to 500,000 people during Feb to August when there is a window to do the burns.

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  5. California:
    SB 1260, passed on the last day of session on August 31, 2018 makes three key policy changes: It makes it easier for California and private parties to conduct prescribed and controlled burns, it largely removes air quality impediments to preventive burns; and, it addresses the issue of environmental quality concerns and lawsuits slowing or stopping needed burns.
    The other bill, SB 901, also passed on the last day of session, appropriates $190 million a year to “improve forest health and fire prevention” and use prescribed burns to reduce the fuel load.

    California controls the laws around burning and logging. Prescribed burns can be changed to gross negligence instead of simple negligence. Florida has that kind of law. Laws and budget are within California control. Feds just have to approve the federal land work. Almost all work in other states on federal land is by utilities and state funds.

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  6. Look at how other states manage it. The federal agencies just approve the maintenance . They do not have a lot of budget for actually cutting the trees. California created the laws that make it tougher to log, tougher to burn etc… The state controls the laws and the rules for logging and burning and liability for burning which are the ways to manage the forest.

    States control most of the forest management laws and they can allocate budget to make the burns and fuel breaks. Other states are far, far better and they all have the same federal apparatus over them. Texas and other states have also had droughts. California is the outlier. PGE is the outlier in California.

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  7. The House passed H.R. 1873, the Electric Reliability and Forest Protection Act, by a vote of 300 to 118 on June 21, 2017. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Kurt Schrader (DOR), would provide “streamlined processes for the removal of hazardous vegetative overgrowth within or adjacent to” electric infrastructure on federal lands. It would direct the USFS and BLM to work with utilities to ensure they can inspect and remove vegetation near electric facilities to prevent forest fires, comply with reliability standards, and keep the lights on remove vegetation near electric facilities to prevent forest fires, comply with reliability standards, and keep the lights on. It would also provide utilities with the ability to trim vegetation that is contacting or in imminent danger of contacting electric transmission or distribution lines and provide notice of such trimming to federal agencies within 24 hours. The failure of federal agencies to allow proper vegetation management, as outlined in the bill, would indemnify utilities from liability for “wildfire damage, loss, or injury, including the cost of suppression.” APPA strongly supports the bill.

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  8. the House passed H.R. 1873, the Electric Reliability and Forest Protection Act, by a vote of 300 to 118 on June 21, 2017. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Kurt Schrader (DOR), would provide “streamlined processes for the removal of hazardous vegetative overgrowth within or adjacent to” electric infrastructure on federal lands. It would direct the USFS and BLM to work with utilities to ensure they can inspect and remove vegetation near electric facilities to prevent forest fires, comply with reliability standards, and keep the lights on. It would also provide utilities with the ability to trim vegetation that is contacting or in imminent danger of contacting electric transmission or distribution lines and provide notice of such trimming to federal agencies within 24 hours. The failure of federal agencies to allow proper vegetation management, as outlined in the bill, would indemnify utilities from liability for “wildfire damage, loss, or injury, including the cost of suppression.” APPA strongly supports the bill.

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  9. https://www.publicpower.org/system/files/documents/vegetation_management_0.pdf

    Congressional Action As a result of the 2003 blackout and other reliability concerns at that time, what was then the North American Electric Reliability Council (now the North American Electric Reliability Corporation or NERC) finalized vegetation management standards and guidelines for the electric industry in 2005. In the same year, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05) was signed into law, directing the creation of nationwide mandatory electricity reliability standards. EPAct05 contained a reliability provision (Section 1211) intended to ensure that federal agencies responsible for approving access to electric transmission or distribution facilities located on federal lands expedite any approvals necessary to allow the owners or operators of such facilities to comply with any reliability standard under Section 215 of the Federal Power Act pertaining to vegetation management. Unfortunately, despite the directive in EPAct05, the vegetation management issue on federal lands has not been resolved. The Department of Energy’s 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) stated that “reliability and resilience projects have also included operations and maintenance activities, such as aggressive vegetation management.

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  10. Oh come on, they have both the permission and requirement to maintain vegetation on their own right of ways. Don’t try to blame on “all that dang red tape!”

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  11. Last year they should have because of the tinder dry conditions and the hurricane strength winds. Neither of these was true this time and they erred so far on the side of caution that are probably legally liable for the costs of the shutdown. The bottom line is they don’t seem to act very rationally.

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  12. Blaming PG&E is fair but trying to blame California is not. California controls very little forest land and trying to blame it all on the new guy Newsome is even dumber. We make electricity cheap to everybody here but it’s the rural users are the ones that put themselves in danger by living out in the woods. Maybe they should be paying more because line maintenance and vegetation management costs are higher in rural areas.

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  13. Those tests are not accurate. The larger the proportion of kids you have take the test in your country, the worse your results will be. Also, if you don’t have the same standards for who gets the test, you may not be giving the test to the kids that are best in math, just the ones who like math the most.
    In actual math contests the US does very well: https://www.imo-official.org/results.aspx
    Top place, 4 out of the last 5 years. We have never been as dominate as we are now.
    Same with other intellectual contests. We are doing great. In chess we are a powerhouse. We were never a powerhouse. An occasional unusual talent might appear. The vast majority of our GMs in the 1980’s and 1990’s were foreign born, usually developed their strength in those other countries and just came here to mop up all the tournament prizes. And, in my opinion, this new excellence all thanks to banning lead fuel additives.
    It has been shown that people of my generation in the US lost 8 IQ points. Those in the cities more, those in rural areas less. 8 IQ points is not trivial, that is a half a standard deviation. Those IQ points were lost mostly in infancy and before…and are permanent. Most of that damage is in the Anterior cingulate cortex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD4B0qOD9Zo

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  14. It may feel really satisfying that this situation somehow supports your deeply held fantasies, but they are just that, fantasies. PG&E are required by law to maintain their lines. Any troublesome trees that weren’t cut was not due to “Sierra Club and enviro activists” or any such considerations. They don’t need anyone’s permission to deal with encroaching trees, even if it’s on private lands.
    The easiest way to increase profits is to cut corners, this outcome is just another chronic failure due to the exigencies of capitalism.

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  15. I’ve already contacted Tesla for a quote to get off the grid completely. Then these idiots can go play with themselves over this power crap.

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  16. The Camp Fire near Paradise CA started on federal land (57% of California forest is federal land), and federal policy was the same as California’s – put out all fires immediately. The federal budget for California was completely tapped out due to firefighting for the last 5 years and nothing was done to increase it; there was no budget left for prevention.

    The federal legislature finally acted and increased the fire fighting and prevention budget by 3.2x in California starting next year.

    https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article235501067.html
    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/california-managing-its-forests-president-managing-its-federal-lands-n942581

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  17. Yes, but anyone who has seen BLM in action knows that the states do have a great deal of sway in their operations. You are correct that Federal policy also leaves a lot to be desired and is causing problems for many Western states. Colorado has millions of now dead trees due to pine beetle infestation. Fires would often clear out old unhealthy forest – and kill off the beetles – and allow a period where Aspens dominate further depriving them of food. Now it is just a mess, almost lost the town of South Fork do to a fire in beetle killed forest. Bottom line, poor state and Federal policies are causing serious problems.

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  18. Ummm… no, it was mismangement of their natural resources, the politics of the left are totally to blame. Along with a shrinking middle class, terrible education, increasing crime and human crap all over the sidewalks. As Obama said, “elections have consequences”.

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  19. PGE is Portland General Electric – a power company serving Portland, Oregon.
    PG&E is Pacific Gas & Electric – the gas and electric company for much of northern California.

    Assigning blame for the current PG&E situation isn’t simple. Lots of parties own parts of the blame.

    If you don’t like how the power company is operated or what it is told to spend your money on, VOTE. Policy is produced by elected officials. Public utility commissioners who manage all major decisions by PG&E are appointed by the governor.

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  20. I think Brian has veered into a very dubious bias here. First of all, Electric Choice is a PGE competitor for local electricity. Second, there is no mention of the big issue of power lines running through forested areas that are almost impossible to thin due to environmental red tape that runs from logging roads, to spotted owls, to environmental impact assessments. It didn’t used to be that way. So many areas have 2-3 times the timber fuel that modern forestry management deems acceptable. Basically, forests that were once lower in fuel, have grown dense in the regions surrounding power lines and communities have expanded into nearby areas. Neither was caused by PGE. Our politicians? That’s a different matter.

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  21. Let us all know when you have a crispr treatment to turn humanity into a selfless hive mind. Meanwhile blaming basic human instincts for social problems is childish and unproductive.

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  22. California is one of two states that hold Utilities to an unlimited liability for fires caused by power lines. Only Alabama does the same.

    If they had shut down the power last year, they would still be a vibrant company.

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  23. This is what is overlooked. Around here in Georgia, the areas under the transmission lines are usually cleared regularly. There was one stretch where it’d been ‘neglected’ for a while and the trees were closing in. Underneath were 5-10 ft pines. I noticed one day a lot of power company trucks were on the side of the road by where you could get into that area… and a week later the trees were gone underneath and the trees on the side were significantly trimmed back.

    But then, we’re not California, and our laws and regulations aren’t written by the Sierra Club and enviro activists.

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  24. 57% of California’s forest are owned by the Federal government. 40% of the forest are privately owned by companies and families. The State and local governments only control about 3% of California forest!

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  25. Many California Natives would disagree. PG&E is either a victim in this or a willing dupe. I’ve lived in California most my life, and what was “Failed to be Made Safe” was the forests. When Jerry Brown was reelected by the dopes in California who now outnumber voters with brains, he put radical environmentalists in charge of California’s Bureau of Land Management, and they immediately ordered a stop to all shelter wood logging in the forests and controlled burns were also discontinued.

    Any Native American who knows their history will tell you the Indians did controlled burns in forests near their villages for thousands of years, but the Democrats in their ‘higher Environmental Wisdom’ thought more of garter snakes and Beatles then HUMAN LIFE…

    Not clearing and maintaining the forests caused the death and displacement of thousands of people. If you have people living in or around forests, and you don’t want them burned alive – YOU MAINTAIN THE FORESTS.

    I apologize for my passion, but one of my close friends was burned to death in Paradise. He was a Native American, and he complained regularly about forests filled with 6 and 7 feet of dead trees, overgrowth, and detritus that was never maintained. He knew it was coming and PG&E had nothing to do with it.

    If you have a mountain or valley of full of combustible material, anything could set that off. Even if it was a PG&E cable… if the land was maintained, it would not have gotten out of control as it did…

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  26. Brian,

    It’s great that we agree on the following:

    1. PG&E’s equipment was responsible for the deadly blaze.
    2. Significant loss of life occured.
    3. PG&E had the cash, but failed to perform maintenance.
    4. California has $20B in the bank…that’s great, why should that matter?…

    You completely glossed over the fact the fire started on federally owned and managed land and burned through a majority of federally owned and managed land. Not a single mention of this in your response. You took the ball of blame and threw it back into the court of California’s state government as the sole entity responsible. That’s not a very honest and accurate interpretation of events.

    https://www.redding.com/story/news/2018/11/11/trump-blames-state-fires-but-many-worst-federal-land/1971196002/

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  27. PG&E is too big to succeed. California operates all the transmission lines by a quasi state organization called CAL-ISO. PG&G operates the distribution and some switch yards. The stage is set for municipalities to take over the distribution. When the take over happens more jobs will be created and maintenance will be completed quickly with lower rates. The value of the distribution system can be derived by the property taxes PG&E pay.Condemn the system and take over otherwise shut up and complain in the dark.

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  28. It’s not the politics as much as the corporate greed of the capitalist PG&E.. taking dividends instead of clearing the land like they should and maintaining their equipment.

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  29. hahah and the third world conditions we all forecasted would arrive in california due to the politics and policies of said state… this is just the warm up… lets hope all the dimwits stay there and dont move elsewhere and destroy more places with their dumb voting

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  30. The California furniture company, Forever Redwood, that supplies the planters on my terrace in NYC practices Restoration Forestry: https://www.foreverredwood.com/overview
    They even have an investment vehicle for it.
    Because they also have to cut mature trees to run their business of creating high quality redwood furniture, this goes beyond just clear-cutting all trees to prevent forest fires. Clearing trees is the least that the state should be doing on public lands, and PG&E should be doing on private lands; both ought to be held criminally as well as civilly liable and pay huge fines to victims.
    There is no reason business, ecology, including more efficient carbon capture than “sustainable forestry”, and sustainability can’t all be practiced at once.
    PG&E is as extremist in supporting shareholders as some “Greenies” are in saying never cut a tree, anywhere. Both are responsible for the ongoing travesty of mismanagement, with the State taking an equal third position of irresponsibility.

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  31. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/11/one-mile-barriers-to-forest-fires-controlled-burns-and-fuel-breaks-1957-1977.html

    Earlier in 2018, there was a proposed new commitment of $1 billion to reduce the risk of megawildfires across the state. The legislation, if signed, would commit $165 million a year for five years to thin forests and $35 million a year for five years to fund prescribed burning projects.

    This bill for money for prescribed burns was passed.

    Even more money needs to be dedicated to controlled burns. Controlled burns need to be used to help establish fuel breaks.

    There is a CalFire plan to triple the amount of controlled burns. There also need to be dedicated extra staff hired to perform the burns on an increased number of burn days.

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  32. CalFire says it was PGE fault. PGE says it was PGE’s fault.

    In January, PGE filed for bankruptcy. In May, California investigators found PG&E power lines were responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire that fire virtually wiped out the town of Paradise, killing 86 people.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/business/pge-fire.html

    California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said that after a “very meticulous and thorough investigation,”</a> it had determined that the Camp Fire was caused by “electrical transmission lines owned and operated” by PGE. PGE said in February that its equipment had probably caused the fire.

    Reply
  33. Anyone recall when USA was number 1 in maths, and is now
    number 37? The same is going to happen with your power.
    With the increasing shut down of base load power in the USA
    this will become common.
    Best thing is just get a diesel generator, call the outages “green
    outs” and live with it.

    Reply
  34. Thank you for putting that out there Brian. This, and the carnage from last year resulting in the deaths of 85 innocent people, are 100% PG&E’s fault. There is no way to defend their failures with a straight face. However, you are incorrect on one issue. The Camp Fire started on federally managed land, and by majority percent, burned through federally managed land. You may also recall the cuts Trump put into place last year on the Forestry Service, after complaining it was California’s fault.

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  35. There is an innovative business model for California:

    1. 1. invest $20k in a 30kW gas turbo genset and installation
    2. 2. wait a little
    3. 3. provide much needed emergency service to.. well, the highest bidder
    4. 4. thank you very much PGE

    As infrastructure falls apart, and people having trouble adjusting to that, there is money to be made. Mr Burns approves.

    p.s. Item 1.1 – precaution. Make sure the genset controls have a password (on switch) and a fake password (time-delayed kill switch) just to make sure there is no monkey business in tough times.

    Reply

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