More than 450,000 electricity customers could lose power Sunday evening as the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) pulls the plug to reduce the risk of wildfires in expected high winds.
On Friday evening, Pacific Gas and Electric announced a wide-ranging Public Safety Power Shutoff warning that could affect as many as 38 counties, including the entire Bay Area, except for the county of San Francisco. (To find out if you could be affected, go to the PG&E website and enter your address here.) More than 450,000 customers could lose power in an attempt to prevent wildfires.
The National Weather Service said the event will likely deliver winds on par with those that fanned flames during the 2017 Wine Country firestorm and last year’s 2019 Kincade Fire, but conditions could be even more severe with winds blowing into nearly every nook and cranny of the region.
PG&E began using shutoffs in high winds following the Camp Fire of 2018, the deadliest (though not the largest) fire in the state’s history. The fire is thought to have begun when an active electricity transmission line was downed in high winds. The fast-moving blaze destroyed the town of Paradise and choked residents of the San Francisco Bay Area with acrid smoke for days.
Other power companies have also adopted wildfire shutoffs in recent years. But they are controversial, as the Los Angeles Times reported in 2019:
But the power shut-offs have generated debate, with some residents saying they create a whole new set of dangers as they try to watch out for news about fires. There has been heightened concern about those with health issues who rely on medical equipment to stay alive.
Some state and local officials have also complained that utilities don’t always give enough notice before turning off the power. And they have expressed concerns about communications and evacuations if the power is out, especially if traffic signals don’t work and cellphone service is affected.
Of the three big California utilities, PG&E was the last to adopt preemptive shut-offs as a strategy to reduce wildfire risks. San Diego Gas & Electric began doing them in 2013 and Southern California Edison in 2017. Each said it shuts off power only a few times a year and tries to limit the number of customers affected.
The wildfire shutoffs are different from the rolling blackouts earlier this year, which were caused by a lack of power generating capacity in a heat wave. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind, upon which California is increasingly reliant, could not keep up with demand.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.