California’s electricity system is failing.
Earlier this month, in order to prevent wildfires, some 2 million people had their power cut by the state’s biggest utility provider, PG&E. It was the biggest deliberate blackout in history.
That record is likely to be broken this week, as the utility contemplates blackouts that could affect up to 3 million people.
Meanwhile, it turns out the Kincade Fire, which currently has 180,000 people evacuating Sonoma County and is only 5 percent contained, may have been started by one of PG&E’s transmission lines. That’s one of the lines it didn’t preemptively shut down, in part thanks to intense pressure from Gov. Gavin Newsom to minimize blackouts.
This, it seems, is what many California electricity customers can expect from now on: blackouts or fires. That is failure.
The first post in this series dug into the causes of that failure, which have been gathering for years now: climate change has made the forests hotter and dryer; forest mismanagement has left them tightly packed and flammable; land-use mismanagement has put more Californians in high-risk areas; decades of delayed and underfunded maintenance has left PG&E’s 100,000 miles of overhead power lines in a sorry state; and to top things off, PG&E is a felon, burdened with almost $30 billion in debt, thanks to the fires it previously started, and in bankruptcy.
It is an omnishambles.