California Could See More Fire-Prevention Power Shutoffs

Electricity may be shut off to 50,000 Northern California utility customers this week to try to prevent power lines from sparking and igniting new wildfires during a predicted new round of gusty, hot and dry weather.

Customers in parts of 19 counties and in two tribal communities were notified Monday of a potential public safety power shutoff starting as early as Wednesday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric said.

California Heat Wave Prompts Power Shutdowns, Wildfire Danger

More than 50,000 California utility customers were without power and others around the state were urged to conserve electricity Thursday amid a fall heat wave that brought another round of extreme wildfire danger.

The National Weather Service issued heat advisories through Friday for temperatures in the 90s and even triple digits in many parts of the state.

Red-flag warnings for extreme fire danger were in place for much of the San Francisco Bay Area where winds bringing hot, dry gusts of up to 55 mph (88.5 kph) were expected to pose a threat of sparking new blazes in a region that already has seen some of the worst wildfires in state history.

Record 2 Million Acres Burned in California Wildfires

Wildfires have burned a record 2 million acres in California this year, and the danger for more destruction is so high the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday it was closing all eight national forests in the southern half of the state.

After a typically dry summer, California is parched heading into fall and what normally is the most dangerous time for wildfires. Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and dozens of others more around California.

California Burns, Winds Kick up And Power Outages Follow

New wildfires ravaged California during a scorching Labor Day weekend that saw a dramatic airlift of more than 200 people trapped by flames and ended with the state’s largest utility turning off power to 172,000 customers to try to prevent its power lines and other equipment from sparking more fires.

California is heading into what traditionally is the teeth of the wildfire season, and already it has set a record with 2 million acres burned this year. The previous record was set just two years ago and included the deadliest wildfire in state history — the Camp Fire that swept through the community of Paradise and killed 85 people.

That fire was started by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines. Liability from billions of dollars in claims from that and other fires forced the utility to seek bankruptcy protection. To guard against new wildfires and new liability, PG&E last year began preemptive power shutoffs when conditions are exceptionally dangerous.

California’s Dark Day Was a Long-Time Crisis in the Making

(TNS) - Signs of a problem within California’s power system emerged a full day before the blackouts hit.

Trader Dov Quint sat in his basement outside Boulder, Colorado, scouring the state’s day-ahead power market for opportunities to profit from California’s heat wave. He saw something strange: Prices for electricity to be delivered the next day — the day of the blackouts — were nearing $1,000 a megawatt-hour, more than 26 times higher than last year’s average.

The last time that happened, in July 2018, the forecast for demand had been much higher. Something was amiss — were energy supplies lower than usual?

Worst Calif., Power Shortage in Years Coincides with the Coronavirus

(TNS) - A late-summer heat wave in Southern California typically sends people fleeing to movie theaters, shopping malls and crowded beaches in search of a cool respite.

But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the closure of places where people once gathered, upending those routines.

So as temperatures soared Friday, many people instead stayed at home with their air conditioners blasting. Even though many offices and businesses were closed due to the pandemic, that intense demand — along with other factors including a dearth of power coming in from other states — was enough to create the most serious statewide energy shortage in nearly 20 years, officials said. On Saturday night, another round of temporary blackouts was ordered in parts of the state.

California Approves PG&E Bankruptcy Plan With Oversight, Safety Conditions

California regulators approved PG&E Corp.’s $58 billion reorganization plan, bringing the power giant another step closer to exiting the biggest utility bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted in favor of PG&E’s proposal after the company agreed to revamp its board and governance structure, submit to greater regulatory oversight and create local operating units to ensure a greater focus on safety.

PG&E Not Committing to Expanding Tree-Trimming Force in California

Lawyers for Pacific Gas & Electric said the utility can’t commit to hiring hundreds more tree trimmers in the way that a federal judge wants to cut the risk of starting more catastrophic wildfires in California.

U.S. District Judge William Alsap ordered the utility last month to add at least 1,100 more tree trimmers to help prevent trees and branches from falling onto its power lines and igniting. The judge is overseeing PG&E’s criminal probation imposed after its natural gas lines blew up a San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood and killed eight people in 2010. He has taken a strong interest in PG&E’s safety record after the company’s power lines started a series of wildfires that killed 130 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

PG&E Fires Contractor After Probe Involving California Wildfires

Pacific Gas & Electric has fired a contractor hired to haul debris from the site of a deadly 2018 Northern California wildfire, saying the company was over-billing the utility and paying “large sums of money and gifts” to two utility supervisors.

PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson said in a memo to employees that the two supervisors “are no longer with the company,” The Sacramento Bee reported.

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