SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Rolling power outages from San Francisco to San Jose are a possibility this wildfire season, according to PG&E.
The utility announced in February it will de-energize high voltage transmission lines in certain circumstances to prevent fires, but that could also limit how much electricity is making its way into major Bay Area cities.
The massive and destructive wildfires from the past few years are the new normal in Northern California.
PG&E has been at the center of the fire storms, literally and figuratively, as investigations revealed the utility’s power lines were the cause of multiple deadly fires in Northern California, including the Wine Country fires in October of 2017.
The following year, the utility announced plans to start selectively shutting off power to wildfire prone areas during extreme weather.
Those shut-offs did not include high voltage transmission lines, which carry power hundreds of miles across the state–the same type of lines eyed as the cause of last year’s deadly Camp Fire near Paradise.
“Cal Fire investigators did determine that the Camp Fires were caused by transmission lines owned and operated by PG&E,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Amy Head at a press conference on Wednesday, May 15.
A few weeks before, on April 25, PG&E filed updates to its Wildfire Mitigation Plan with the California Public Utilities Commission. One major change is that now, those high voltage lines will be de-energized in certain situations.
“San Francisco could possibly be de-energized if multiple East Bay transmission lines were to be de-energized due to extreme conditions,” PG&E wrote in the documents.
San Francisco residents have mixed reactions to the proposal.
“I think it’s a good move and a very selfish move in the long run. It definitely benefits PG&E,” Adiaya Kushwaha, who has lived in San Francisco for three years.
“I mean, I understand keeping people safe. But at the same time, keeping people of San Francisco safe, we need lights,” said Aja Latham, a San Francisco native.
There are high voltage lines that supply electricity to San Francisco that run under the Bay and there are also some that come up the peninsula.
PG&E says if the East Bay lines go down, it could cause a domino effect, knocking out power completely. In previous statements, PG&E said their top priority has always been to keep the power on to its customers, so long as it is safe.