PG&E hosts series of northern California open houses as threat of extreme weather looms | TheUnion.com

PG&E hosts series of northern California open houses as threat of extreme weather looms

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
PG&E held open houses in Grass Valley, Auburn and Placerville this week.
Submitted to The Union

Pacific Gas & Electric has hosted about 23 open house discussions with the public around the North State, said Brandi Merlo, media spokesperson for the company’s northern California region.

Tuesday evening an event was held at Grass Valley’s Foothills Event Center. Wednesday included a talk in Auburn, and Thursday PG&E representatives were engaging people in Placerville. Around 100 people attended each event.

“We want customers to come out,” said Merlo. “We want to answer their questions one-on-one.”

These open houses have occurred as growing caution of extreme weather and wildfire increases.

Merlo said the company wants to inform customers of its three general safety tactics, including monitoring and intelligence, system hardening (adding coded wire) and enhanced clearance work.

“It’s just built upon stuff we’ve done previously,” said Merlo.

In the event of a possible wildfire, the company provides 48 hours of notice before cutting power, including notifications via phone, text and email, said Merlo.

For “medical baseline” customers, who need electrical power to live, PG&E must have a response from those customers. If they don’t, it sends a vehicle to their home.

Merlo said the company hopes to establish “community resource centers” that act as cooling stations with electrical outlets in areas where power has been shut off.

CONTEXT

The open house talks come amidst much recent news concerning PG&E.

In January the utility company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Northern District of California, citing that it could not afford $30 billion in liabilities from wildfire damage in 2017 and 2018.

After investigating California’s deadliest wildfire, Cal Fire officials said electrical lines owned and operated by PG&E in the Pulga area were responsible for the Camp Fire’s cause, according to NPR reporting. In May, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson told the Associated Press that he “made the assumption” that PG&E equipment was responsible for the Camp Fire.

This month, state legislators passed Assembly Bill 1054 to compensate victims of recent wildfires. The legislation creates a $21 billion fund, half of which is financed by ratepayers, the other half by utility investors.

The fund will provide compensation to people affected by damage caused by extreme weather events linked to PG&E.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, who called the utility company “corrupt,” came out in support of state Assembly Bill 1054, saying it intends to hold PG&E, among other utility companies, accountable for wildfire damage over the past two years. The bill also would cap ratepayers’ contributions to the fund.

Thursday, PG&E said it will pay $4.8 billion into the new fund once it is no longer in bankruptcy, in addition to $193 million per year, according to the Associated Press.

While there was no mention of investment in renewable energy as part of PG&E’s media advisory regarding its open house talks, the company says it’s exploring clean energy, according to a June 2018 report. In 2017, its power sources were 33% renewable.

In 2015, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill 350, requiring the state to increase its renewable electricity goal to 50% by 2030. To facilitate the process, lawmakers mandated utility companies, like PG&E, develop integrated resource plans detailing how they will “meet their customers’ resource needs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ramp up the use of clean energy resources,” according to the California Energy Commission.

PG&E’s website claimed the company to be “well on our way” to meeting the guidelines set by the bill.

With the passage of Senate Bill 100 in September 2018, California lawmakers moved closer to relying on renewable energy sources, mandating the state rely on 50% of its energy to stem from renewables by 2026, 60 percent by 2030, and 100% of its energy to come from carbon-free sources by 2045.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.


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