USA: PG&E: what’s next for the utility at the center of California’s wildfires

Source(s)
Guardian, the (UK)

By Susie Cagle

It was like a scene out of a dystopian future film: a second world war air raid siren blasted over a blacked-out west Sonoma county in northern California to warn residents as winds picked up Saturday night and pushed the Kincade fire closer.

[…]

But the shutoffs ostensibly meant to cut wildfire danger – and PG&E’s attendant liabilities for those wildfires – left officials struggling to send evacuation alerts across the region. And days after the start of the blaze, PG&E admitted that a still-energized transmission cable had malfunctioned shortly before the fire ignited.

[…]

Turning off the power in order to prevent wildfire starts was supposed to be an option of last resort. When the state approved PG&E’s deenergization plans for public safety power shutoffs last year, no one seemed prepared for how frequently the utility would be conducting rolling blackouts for millions of residents: in October, some Californians suffered three separate power shutdowns. In some places, it was functionally just two – because PG&E didn’t finish inspecting lines and restoring service before it turned off the lights yet again.

[…]

After PG&E’s grid was linked to deadly fires in 2017 and 2018 that totaled close to the company’s market value, the utility filed for bankruptcy. But any new PG&E-sparked fires pose a challenge to the company’s bankruptcy plans, as any post-bankruptcy fire claims will have to be paid in full before any pre-bankruptcy claims, which includes the $10.5bn in estimated liabilities from the 2018 Camp fire that PG&E admitted was sparked by its faulty infrastructure.

[…]

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