Republican lawmakers Senator Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher have introduced much-needed legislation to protect their constituents from PG&E’s power shutoffs. They seek to direct additional funding towards utility infrastructure upgrades and forest fuel reduction projects, in hopes of offsetting the causes of catastrophic wildfires that PG&E cites when declaring power shutoffs.
Despite spending $2.4 billion to uphold legislative mandates for buy renewable power, PG&E only spent $1.5 billion to improve its failing infrastructure. Their old transmission towers have been cited as the cause of the most expensive natural disaster in the world—the 2018 Camp Fire—and may be the source of the current Kincade Fire in Sonoma.
Though the legislation may be pausing renewable energy initiatives, it’s a necessary temporary stop until infrastructure and vegetation management conditions are improved. Savings from the temporary relief will only be used by Investor Owned Utilities to reduce forest fuels and harden the electric grid.
Senator Nielsen describes the initiative as a necessary common-sense approach to immediately end power shut-offs and reduce fire risks. He stated that “we are not waiting ten years. No more power shutoffs…millions without electricity is what a third world country looks like, not a state that is the 5th largest economy in the world.”
Investor-owned utilities have already met their renewable energy goals, and PG&E is currently producing 85 percent of its power from renewable sources. However, they continue to invest recklessly in renewable energy when our weak power grid is in desperate need of improvement and fire-prevention methods.
Another component of the legislation takes on PG&E’s bankruptcy by urging the Federal Bankruptcy Court to rescind PG&E’s current renewable energy contracts so that the energy giant can buy the same renewable power at a lower price. The savings from these inflated contracts can be reinvested in fire danger prevention.
Fires are costing California more carbon than it saves. Last year’s fires generated nine times California’s combined carbon reductions in 2016 and 2017 combined. While Democrats might cringe at the idea of pausing renewable energy initiatives in favor of improving the electric grid, they cannot deny the fact that fires pose a great threat to their security of Californians. The initiative suggested by these Republican legislators is a reasonable solution that will show immediate results, one that we need to take to protect California against severe danger.