A wildfire in California wine country that may have been caused by a high-voltage transmission line called into question Pacific Gas & Electric’s strategy of selectively cutting off power in windy weather to prevent blazes and could force it to resort to even bigger blackouts affecting millions as early as this weekend.
The repeated shut-offs and the prospect of longer and more widespread ones brought anger down on the utility from the governor and ordinary customers.
“We will hold them to account,” warned Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has repeatedly blasted PG&E — the nation’s largest utility — for what he calls years of mismanagement and underinvestment that have left its grid less resilient.
Twice over the past two weeks, PG&E has cut power to large areas of northern and central California to reduce the risk of its equipment sparking fires. Nearly 2 million people lost electricity earlier this month, and then as many as a half-million this week.
But PG&E’s decision to shut down distribution lines but not long-distance transmission lines may have backfired this time when a blaze erupted near the Sonoma County wine country town of Geyserville.
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