Californian residents lose power in PG&E and SCE outages

Threats of wildfires causes loss of electricity for millions

Over 2.3 million people lost electricity in Northern California on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 26, becoming the biggest outage in PG&E history. Two days later, more blackouts occurred in Southern California, affecting approximately 25,0000 customers. Utility companies PG&E and Southern California Edison are purposefully shutting off power for “public safety” reasons, and as fires rage across the state, they have been doing so frequently. 

It has been less than 3 weeks since PG&E’s first major shut-off on Oct. 9, where over 700,000 homes and businesses went dark. In Southern California, a similar fate awaited 12,900 customers of SCE. Now, on Oct. 29, PG&E plans a third round of outages for 1.5 million people in 29 counties. 1 million people are still without power from the Oct. 26 blackout. 

PG&E’s equipment is reputed to have caused 10 wildfires this year, one of which was in the burn zone of the Camp Fire, which decimated the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. As the Diablo winds increased, the risk of their power lines starting another blaze did as well. PG&E ultimately decided to shut down power, which sparked state-wide discussion. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, PG&E knew that some of their power lines were outdated, but delayed replacing the parts for years. 

Governor Gavin Newsom was unhappy about the outages and demanded that PG&E give $100 to every single customer affected by the blackouts. He plans on investigating the issue further with the help of the California Public Utilities Commission.

“The scope and duration of this outage was unacceptable. It was the direct result of decades of PG&E prioritizing profit over public safety,” Newsom wrote in a letter to Marybel Batjer, the president of the CPUC. “I am profoundly disappointed in PG&E.”

In response to his concerns, PG&E has agreed to give credit on customers’ electricity bills, although further details, such as the amount, have not been disclosed as of Oct. 29.   

For students at the University of California Berkeley, classes were canceled Wednesday, Oct. 9 through Friday, Oct. 11. Most buildings on the campus were also shut down. Classes were also canceled Monday Oct. 28 but resumed on Tuesday Oct. 29. 

“Most students spend a lot of their day on campus, so if they were looking for a place to eat or study or an organization had a meeting planned, everyone [had] to adjust accordingly,” Oak Park High School alumna and UC Berkeley sophomore Sofia Sayyah wrote to the Talon. 

Sayyah wrote that she agreed with PG&E’s decision to cut the power as power lines can play a huge role in fires and they need to work to reduce the risk of a fire starting again. However, she also wrote that some people weren’t given enough warning ahead of time. 

“We were told it would last a maximum of 48 hours; it ended up lasting longer than that and without a lot of advance warning, many people didn’t have time to stock up non-perishables, charge their devices get batteries for flashlights, etc.,” Sayyah wrote. “While I think shutting off the power was the right choice, naturally not everyone was prepared.”