PG&E: Power restored to 74 percent of customers in impacted areas

PG&E crews check lines during a forced power safety shutoff. Oct. 10, 2019

PG&E released the latest power outage numbers early Friday afternoon showing that some counties are fully or nearly fully restored, and other counties, such as Kern, Lake, Merced and Plumas counties range from zero to 3 percent back to normal power. Overall, 74 percent of customers in impacted areas had their power restored. 

The Bay Area fared relatively well. By Friday afternoon Alameda County was 86 percent restored and Contra Costa County was 95 percent restored. Santa Clara County was 94 percent restored, but that didn't stop San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and other politicians from blasting the utility for proactively shutting off power during the high wind, high fire season. Liccardo said the outages, which began Tuesday night, cost his city $500,000 and he expects to be paid back. 

“What is a minor inconvenience for a few hours becomes a major public health and public safety hazard over several days,” Liccardo said at a Thursday news conference. “We critically need to ensure these power shutdowns do not last more than a few hours.”

State Sen. Jerry  Hill and other politicians questioned why PG&E is the sole decision maker in turning off the power and pointed out that shut-offs are evidence the utility hasn’t properly upgraded its electrical grid. They said PG&E must modernize its system so it can switch off power in fire-prone spots without widespread blackouts.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna said:  “It’s completely unacceptable for customers in the heart of the technology revolution to be subjected to this mass electricity outage. I support efforts to minimize the potential for horrific wildfires, but this is not how it should be done. PG&E has paid out millions in bonuses and neglected vegetation management for years. We need investment in smart grids and localized power generation, and bring our power grid into the 21st century. There’s no excuse for this kind of neglect.”

That follows on the heels of what Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Thursday, blaming PG&E for years of "greed and mismanagement." 

PG&E says it must shut off power during dry, windy weather to keep its equipment from sparking more wildfires like those that killed scores of Californians in 2017 and 2018. 

Speaking Thursday evening, Bill Johnson, PG&E’s CEO, apologized for the agency’s poor communication and overloaded call centers at a press conference Thursday evening. “We were not adequately prepared,” he said.

But he defended the blackouts, adding “we faced a choice here between hardship on everyone and safety, and we chose safety.”

County         Total Impacted   Total Restored   % Restored

ALAMEDA           30,827                   26,527                   86%

AMADOR             18,687                   9,355                     51%

BUTTE                   27,341                   7,975                     31%

CALAVERAS        24,319                   12,439                   55%

COLUSA               1,816                     1,465                     81%

CONTRA COSTA  37,486                   33,625                   95%

EL DORADO        51,272                   25,346                   51%

GLENN                 1,602                     1,401                     87%

HUMBOLDT        66,947                   66,942                   100%

KERN                     4,287                     70                           2%

LAKE                      37,403                   1,174                     56%

MARIN                 9,881                     7,888                     80%

MARIPOSA         2,261                     763                         34%

MENDOCINO     6,401                     3090                       69%

MERCED               127                         2                              19%

NAPA                    32,540                   23,681                   75%

NEVADA              41,497                   8,806                     36%

PLACER                 50,086                   29,992                   69%

PLUMAS              811                         1                              0%

SAN MATEO       14,764                   12,341                   86%

SANTA CLARA    38,983                   36,633                   94%

SANTA CRUZ      38,513                   25,403                   67%

SHASTA                 31,788                   11,023                   58%

SIERRA                  1,454                     0                              0%

SISKIYOU             58                           58                           100%

SOLANO               32,323                   30,870                   96%

SONOMA            65,902                   48,755                   78%

STANISLAUS       138                         131                         96%

TEHAMA              19,965                   8,460                     76%

TRINITY                 1,416                     1,416                     100%

TUOLUMNE        33,809                   14,529                   48%

YOLO                     6,272                     6,138                     100%

YUBA                     6,722                     2,045                     34%

PG&E has identified 23 instances of weather-related damage to its system in impacted areas.