Pacific Gas & Electric’s rolling outages are amazing to see occuring, and are frightening for many experiencing them. Up to 700,000 people have been without grid electricity last night and today due to planned outages. I have friends in Sonoma who have experienced recent wildfires caused by PG&E’s negligence and lack of system maintenance, whose nerves are on edge due to the forecast of high wind and dry conditions. Their anxiety is compounded at the moment by these outages, even though they are preventative measures attempting to avoid the wildfires we have seen in the last few years..
The underlying problem is the lack of maintenance by PG&E on their transmission system. This corporation has a history of taking the profits while socializing the risks and losses. As utilities are state supported monopolies, some of the responsibility lies with the California Public Utilities Commission. Unfortunately PG&E’s bankruptcy filing, questions surrounding that, and the plunge in share price does not bode well for the situation improving in the coming years.
This is a situation wherein a grid-tied solar pv system with back-up batteries would prove itself very useful. While batteries are expensive, homeowners who have spent the money are surely grateful at this moment. While we do not have these particular issues at the moment here in Washington, this is a cautionary event from which we can learn.