Our View: PG&E needs long-term solution, not widespread blackouts | TheUnion.com

Our View: PG&E needs long-term solution, not widespread blackouts

The Union Editorial Board

The scene at the Glenbrook Basin Safeway on Wednesday came straight out of the movie “The Road Warrior.”

Vehicles jammed into too few parking spaces. One driver yelling at another, claiming dominion over a particular spot. The line for Starbucks winding around the small kiosk. Others standing motionless with a shopping cart full of groceries, dumbstruck, waiting for civilization to return.

We all waited, some of us not too patiently.

Admittedly, this scene wouldn’t even have existed without the presence of a generator, giving people a place to shop.

PG&E’s planned power outage implemented early Wednesday in western Nevada County set off tempers and crippled businesses. Families huddled together in dark houses, or maybe around cooking and heating fires — a scenario that makes one wonder about the wisdom behind the power outage.

Much like post-apocalyptic survivors scrounging for gasoline in the wasteland, we need to recognize the fact that this is the new normal.

Here’s the problem: We can’t afford the new normal. Gov. Gavin Newsom said as much earlier this week when he slammed PG&E.

“No one is satisfied with this, no one is happy with this,” the governor said.

Love or hate his politics, Newsom is right. Local business operators said a couple of days without power left them with thousands of dollars in losses. Few can shoulder that kind of loss one time.

And this certainly won’t be the last of planned power outages.

Another outage like this week’s could lead to the proverbial torches and pitchforks. Or the grocery store wasteland.

That’s why PG&E needs to figure out whether these outages are a long-term solution. Because if this is the long-term fix, PG&E needs to change course.

What is the permanent fix? PG&E needs to put everything on the table to determine that answer.

And we, the customers of the power company, need a stake in that decision. It shouldn’t be a fiat chosen by a select few at the top of PG&E. Instead the utility needs to obtain buy-in from the customers it serves.

Schedule some public workshops. PG&E should talk to us directly and in person. Ask us for ideas, and put all options on the table.

Should we break up PG&E into smaller entities that serve different parts of the state? What about having a corporation owned by the federal government like the Tennessee Valley Authority? How about local governments require any new developments have their power lines installed underground?

Could PG&E provide every home and business with a generator? Should the government mandate that?

Because the new normal is unacceptable, and California won’t stand for it. We can’t continue to slog through a temporary fix — days without power because of extreme weather conditions. We must have a real solution.

In the meantime, plan for the next outage. Buy a generator before it hits. Fill up the tank before the electricity goes out. Fill water bottles before the well turns your water pressure into a thin trickle, if any at all.

And don’t let the stress and anger of a power outage affect how you treat people. We’re all pushed to our limits when the lights go out. Honking car horns and pushing through the supermarket helps no one.

When presented with the anger of the wasteland, be the bigger person.

Just walk away.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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