The Tragic Failures of PG&E and SDG&E

As unfortunate as it is, wildfires have become a known and expected disaster in California. Many homes throughout the state, come the month of October, begin to gather supplies and materials to prepare themselves for the worst.

However, one thing that families should be able to depend on is power, which is the responsibility of gas and electric companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), locally. With the wildfires raging across California, the effort from PG&E has been insufficient and the public is suffering from their incompetence. 

In the midst of wildfires, a cutoff of electricity is to be expected. Yet, in recent weeks, PG&E has cut off electricity to 700,000 customers, a clear depiction of mismanagement on behalf of the company. In comparison, SD&E has only had to cut off 500 customers. This is due to SDG&E’s plan which was instated on October 15, 2019 named Fire Safe 3.0.

San Diego County Supervisor Diane Jacob concisely explains the relationship between the two: “Are they better than the utilities in the north? Yeah probably, but does that mean that they are the gold standard? Absolutely not.”

The concept of power shut-offs became increasingly popular with the devastating 2007 wildfires. SDG&E claimed it would be an efficient way to lessen potential damages. SDG&E has since instituted fire analytics, weather stations which report every 30 seconds and has even employed artificial intelligence based predictive models. However, Jacob sees shutting off power as just a way to avoid liability. As she stated, “They’re more interested in covering their liability rear end than they are about looking out for those who have suffered losses and the ratepayers.”

Despite the harm the power shutoffs have inflicted, PG&E has decided to utilize the same tactic of shutting off power. However, the suffering is greater and the mismanagement is far worse. Just last week, 180,000 more customers were in danger of losing power, for a total of 880,000 customers lacking power. Furthermore, the power shut-offs will not end with the wildfires, as PG&E plans to continue shutoffs for the next 10 years in an attempt to reduce wildfire risk.

While SDG&E has had its issues, the failures of PG&E have proven to be fare more severe and put thousands of Californians in danger. PG&E did not act on time and when they chose to act, it was ineffectual and unproductive.

Their responsibility is to help customers in a time of stress and worry, but instead, the company has chosen to worry about their own financial damages. Both companies are in dire need of accountability because citizens have suffered long enough as a result of their ineptitude.

Editorial Note: The original article appeared to equate the problems of SDG&E with those of PG&E. Upon further review, we believe this was an unfair equivalence and have made a couple changes to the piece to reflect that.

Photo by Daniel Tausis