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800,000 Affected By California's Mass Power Shutoff

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has started a planned power shutoff on an unprecedented scale in Northern California to reduce the risk of wildfires amid dry and windy weather, the San Francisco-based utility said on Wednesday.  

The deadliest fire in California’s history, the Camp Fire in November 2018, was caused by PG&E’s transmission lines, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) determined in May this year.

PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of this year burdened by the devastating 2018 wildfires in California, began on Wednesday morning the first phase of its three-phase Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in large parts of its service areas in northern and central California.

The first phase, which began at 12 a.m. on Wednesday, will impact around 530,000 customers, the second phase will affect power supply to another 234,000 customers from around 12 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, and a third phase is also being considered for the southernmost portions of PG&E’s service area. That phase will impact around 42,000 customers in specific locations yet to be determined, PG&E said.

“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, which is why PG&E has decided to turn power off to customers during this widespread, severe wind event,” Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Operations, said in a statement.

“We’re telling customers to be prepared for an outage that could last several days,” Tamar Sarkissian, a spokeswoman for PG&E, told Reuters on Tuesday.

This planned power shutoff is the biggest coordinated blackout in California to reduce the risk of wildfires in the state, according to Bloomberg, which notes that as many as 2 million people in total could be affected by the power shutoff, based on the average size of a household in the U.S.

Just yesterday, a new report from a nonprofit nonpartisan organization showed that California could be 100 years too late in meeting its 2050 emissions target, as rising wildfires, transportation, and landfills emissions undermine progress in the state’s climate goals.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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