Dan Halloran: The long range impacts of power shutdowns
We’ve read recent articles on the PG&E power shutdown situation here in California. PG&E should cease and desist in their strategy of shutting off power during periods of perceived adverse wind, temperature and humidity combinations that enable wildfires to spread.
Instead, put their efforts forward to aggressively modernize and/or repair their controls systems, power lines, cables, piping and equipment to enable the distribution of power to proceed uninterrupted under all immediate emergency events. This “power shut-off” strategy seems to many of us who are affected to be a game of “you can’t blame me for the fire if we weren’t there!”
First of all, a power utility that does not provide power violates the public trust as well as its own charter, and is not a true public utility. Of course, a public utility can be and should be blamed for malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance. But shutting off power (i.e. refusing to perform their duty) is non-feasance, and absolutely should not be a publicly allowed option except in case of an active fire, accident or other active and compelling event.
The PG&E representatives claim that the adverse conditions of high wind, low humidity and dense vegetation exist where the transmission lines are located, not necessarily where we are. Further, their representatives blame “climate change” for these conditions. Well, California has had this combination of adverse conditions many times in every year that I’ve lived here, and until this year, no shutdowns were apparently necessary. Of course, PG&E has been blamed for several recent tragedies, and has entered protection under federal bankruptcy laws as a result.
Setting that issue aside, as I write this, our home is at hour 41 of the current (our third) shutdown, with 48 to 72 hours more of this shutdown promised. Even if otherwise justified on wildfire prevention grounds, the impact of a power shutdown on the economies of the foothills’ counties of California will be horrific and incalculable:
1. Enormous business loss of income due to shutdown.
2. Commercial and residential food spoilage due to power loss.
3. Stunted business growth, as new business will refrain from starting due to uncertain power.
4. Existing businesses loss of market share and reputation arising from failure to meet their commitments due to power shutdown.
5. Many businesses who might otherwise have stayed in California will now revisit the advantages of moving to another state.
6. Employees’ loss of wages due to power shut down mount rapidly.
7. Significant loss of internet commerce due to disconnect.
8. Increased health risk due to disconnected medical devices; canceled appointments and surgeries.
9. Drop in property values, as in, “who would want to live in an area with known frequent shutoffs?”
10. Economic and societal quality of life loss caused by the traffic jams and inconveniences resulting from these outages.
Over time, the impact of these shutdowns will devastate the communities affected. California’s image will deteriorate.
Dan Halloran lives in Penn Valley.
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“You’ve heard me say this before: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state” — Cal Fire Director Thom Porter.