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PG&E says it will give more advance notice of planned power shutoffs

As peak fire season continues, the possibility of planned power shutoffs throughout the state still looms. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) says its customers will get more warning if a power outage will affect them.

Scorching temperatures in August caused rolling blackouts, leaving tens of thousands statewide in the dark during heat waves.

Govenor Gavin Newsom said at the time something needs to be done to reduce the disruption these shutoffs cause. 

“I want to make this crystal clear," Newsom said during an August 17, 2020 press conference. "We failed to predict and plan for these shortages and that is simply unacceptable.”

While the statewide power grid manager—the California Independent System Operator—helps facilitate power shutoffs, it’s the utility companies that determine where and when power lines and circuits will be de-energized.

PG&E said it’s come up with a new system regarding potential planned outages. 

“We are going to a watch and warning notification system," PG&E spokesperson Mark Mesesan said. "So whenever possible, a watch notification will be sent two days in advance.”

Following the watch notification, Mesesan said if a shutoff is going to happen, customers will now receive a warning notice four-12 hours before the power is cut off. They will also get an estimate on the duration of the outage. 

“We issue them via our automated calls, also text and emails," Mesesan said. "That’s why it's very important for our customers to have their information shared with us so we can notify them.”

Mesesan said while San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties weren’t part of the recent power shutoffs, the possibility continues through the beginning of December.

“One of the things about public safety power shutoffs that concerns us are what about people that have medical concerns or medical needs?” Mesesan said. 

To address that concern, PG&E has launched a program for customers who depend on life-saving medical equipment.

“The program provides no cost backup portable batteries for eligible customers who live in the high fire threat districts," Mesesan said. " We have those [types of customers] in San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.”

More information on the alert system and medical backup battery program is at pge.com

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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