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PCG PR A - Pacific Gas And Electric Co News Story

$29.83 -0.5  -1.5%

Sector
Utilities
Size
Large Cap
Market Cap £5.59bn
Enterprise Value £31.28bn
Revenue £13.37bn
Position in Universe th / 6853

UPDATE 1-Power shut off to millions in California as wildfire risks rise

Wed 9th October, 2019 9:29pm
(New throughout, adds details)
    By Steve Gorman
    LOS ANGELES, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Electricity was shut off to
more than 500,000 California homes and businesses on Wednesday
as Pacific Gas and Electric Co imposed a planned power outage of
unprecedented scale to reduce wildfire risks posed by high winds
and hot, dry weather.
    A second phase of the "public safety power shutoff" was
slated to begin at midday, extending cutoffs to another 234,000
customers, the utility said, and it was considering a third
phase for 42,000 more homes and businesses.
    The outages were planned for communities across 34 of the
state's 58 counties, all in PG&E's service area in northern and
central California.
    Sustained gale-force winds were forecast to linger through
midday Thursday, with isolated gusts of up to 70 miles per hour,
the utility said in announcing the shutdown. Once power is
turned off, it cannot be restored until winds subside, allowing
PG&E to inspect equipment for damage and make repairs, the
company said. 
    The utility has warned residents to prepare for outages that
could last several days, but spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said
PG&E expected to restore electricity to most customers "within
24 to 48 hours after the weather has passed."
    Ultimately the measure could leave nearly 800,000 homes and
businesses, comprising millions of people, without electricity,
the largest precautionary electricity shutoff PG&E has
undertaken. Of six previous such power cuts, the largest
occurred a year ago and affected 60,000 customers.
    Ahead of Wednesday's shutdown, customers were urged to stock
up on flashlights, fresh batteries, first-aid supplies and cash,
and to plan for healthcare needs requiring refrigerated
medications or electrical devices.
    The utility said it opened 28 community centers across the
planned outage zone to furnish restrooms, bottled water, battery
charging and air-conditioned seating during daytime hours.
    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
(Cal Fire) said "red-flag" warnings were posted across the state
for what was shaping up to be the strongest wind event so far
this season.
    PG&E has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over
maintenance of transmission wires and other equipment implicated
in major wildfires.    
    In May, state fire investigators determined that PG&E
transmission lines caused the deadliest and most destructive
wildfire on record in California, last year's wind-driven Camp
Fire that killed 85 people in and around the town of Paradise.
    Cal Fire likewise concluded that PG&E power lines had
sparked a separate flurry of wildfires that swept California's
wine country north of San Francisco Bay in 2017.
    PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, citing potential
civil liabilities in excess of $30 billion from the fires.
    Utility officials said they had placed dozens of helicopter
crews and hundreds of extra ground personnel on standby for
inspections and repairs once the winds die down in order to
restore power as quickly as possible.

 (Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; additional reporting
Jim Christie in San Francisco and Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing
by Larry King and David Gregorio)
 ((rich.mckay@thomsonreuters.com;))
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