A safety division of the California Public Utilities Commission will ask commissioners in the next 30 days to launch a formal investigation into energy company Public Safety Power Shutoff events.

CPUC Commission President Marybel Batjer said in a statement:

“The state cannot continue to experience PSPS events on the scope and scale Californians have experienced this month, nor should Californians be subject to the poor execution that PG&E in particular has exhibited.”

Batjer added that the CPUC will demand utility companies better prepare and carry out PSPS events in ways that minimally impact the state’s energy customers.

Additionally, Batjer will direct utility companies to address equipment safety maintenance and establish ways to reduce PSPS events in their 2020 Fire Mitigation Plans. 

Pacific Gas and Electric The potential PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff impact map for Tuesday, October 29, 2019.

The commission will reexamine protocol PG&E uses to determine if and when PSPS events are necessary. Officials said:

“This includes an examination of actions that utilities can take in the next six months to minimize impacts of future PSPS events by increasing grid redundancy, segmentation, and equipment hardening.”

As a matter of consumer protection, the CPUC will explore options to prevent utility companies from charging residential customers during shutoff periods.

Regulators plan to enlist the help of technology experts who can identify ways to minimize power shutoffs in the coming months.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has publicly expressed frustration with utility companies and PSPS events, agreed that an investigation is called for.

Newsom said in statement: 

“I want to see the CPUC launch a total reform of power shutoff rules and regulations. Utilities must be held accountable and be aggressively penalized for their overreliance on PSPS, and the product of this investigation must be new rules and regulations to do that. I also want to see customers not charged for PSPS. It seems obvious, but under the current rules, utilities can do just that. It’s unacceptable and must be remedied.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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