PG&E to use state support, aircraft to minimize impact of power shutoff

PG&E has accepted an offer of technical assistance and aircraft to help limit the scope and minimize the impact of a potential public safety power shutoff that may go into effect mid-week, CEO Bill Johnson said Tuesday evening at a news conference.

“We share the governor’s focus on public safety,” Johnson said. PG&E plans to test a California Highway Patrol airplane equipped with infrared technology to inspect power lines in preparation for the dry windy weather expected to affect much of Northern California Wednesday and Thursday. If useful, such aircraft could speed the process of getting the power back on by allowing line inspection to continue after dark.

“I understand that people are not happy when their power is off,” Johnson said, referring to hostilities reported in connection with the last shutoff two weeks ago, asking the public not to direct their anger at PG&E field personnel.

It’s not yet clear whether the shutoff will go forward, and PG&E plans to make that decision Wednesday morning, before the forecasted arrival of dry windy weather. If high-risk conditions do not occur, however, they hope to keep the power on.

Earlier Tuesday Gov. Gavin Newsom demanded PG&E “ensure that as few people as possible” are impacted by outages and provide more information to customers. “I continue to extend the technical assistance currently offered by the State of California to reduce the impacts of PSPS, including operational guidance from Cal OES, meteorological data from CALFIRE, and most recently, infrared-equipped aircraft to assist in inspections of power line safety and the acceleration of power restoration,” Newsom said in a statement.

The National Weather Service has forecasted moderate to strong winds and low humidity conditions with wind gusts of up to 55 mph in the North Bay mountains and East Bay hills. That may also involve an increased risk of wildfire, and a Red Flag Warning has been issued for most of Northern California.

Newsom has also called on PG&E to issue a credit or rebate to utility customers affected by the historic shutoff two weeks ago.

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