CPUC PG&E
Image credit: Stock

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Marybel Batjer has ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to take immediate corrective actions after it encountered significant problems with communication, coordination, and management during the largest Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) event in the history of California. 

“Failures in execution, combined with the magnitude of this PSPS event, created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated,” said President Batjer.

PG&E’s decision to shut off power during the week of October 7, 2019, affected more than 700,000 customers and impacted an estimated 2 million people. “The scope, scale, complexity, and overall impact to people’s lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated,” she said.

In an urgent letter to PG&E Chief Executive Officer William Johnson on Monday 14 October, President Batjer and officials outlined seven major areas where immediate corrective actions are required. CPUC staff and experts at state and PG&E operations centres witnessed problems unfolding during the event and received input from other state and local agencies to identify the immediate corrective actions required.

Some of the corrective actions outlined in the President’s letter include:

  • Accelerating the restoration of power with a goal of less than 12 hours, similar to what is required after major storms.
  • Enhancing efforts to minimise the size and magnitude of future PSPS events.
  • Developing systems and protocols to ensure public information through call centers and PG&E’s website is available during high-volume, critical times.
  • An effective communication structure with county and tribal government emergency management personnel to allow for emergency personnel to receive the support and information required to properly respond
  • The improvement of processes and systems for distributing maps with boundaries to impacted counties and tribal governments that correspond to the latest PSPS impact information being provided.
  • The compilation of a list of existing and possible future agreements for on-call resources that can be called upon in case of an emergency.
  • Ensuring that PG&E personnel involved in Emergency Operations Centers are trained in California’s Standardised Emergency Management System (SEMS).

In addition to the immediate corrective actions outlined in her letter, THe CPUC has directed PG&E to perform an after-action review and file a response by close of business on October 17, 2019, including filing weekly updates on corrective actions until all concerns have been addressed. 

Related Stories:
PG&E vegetation management found lacking
PG&E agrees to $11 billion in compensation for California wildfires
PG&E kickstarts resident compensation for 2017 wildfires

The CPUC will also hold an emergency meeting on Friday, October 18, 2019 to hear from top PG&E executives about what lessons have been learned from this latest event and what steps will be taken to ensure mistakes and operational gaps are not repeated.

The meeting will be available live at www.adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc.