San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Monday accused PG&E of lying that rolling blackouts over the weekend occurred by order of the state’s electric grid. In fact, he says, the outages had more to do with the public utility’s own failure to maintain its equipment.
On Friday afternoon, PG&E announced that the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) told them to turn off power for up to 250,000 customers to relieve strain on the power grid amid a record-smashing heatwave. The rolling outages lasted throughout the weekend as temperatures in Santa Clara County surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
But some San Jose residents reported being without power for nearly 24 hours in the sweltering heat. And with malls, movie theaters and other indoor sanctuaries closed due to the pandemic, many were left to sweat it out.
During a Facebook Live event today, Liccardo told viewers that rolling blackouts are typically instituted during peak energy use—and for only a short period of time.
To be clear, the extended blackouts in South San José this weekend had nothing to do with the rolling blackouts attributed by @PGE4Me to CaISO—they were caused by the poor condition of @PGE4Me infrastructure, resulting from the company’s years of neglect and underinvestment https://t.co/qsYrd37HPF
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) August 18, 2020
“While we may in fact encounter rolling blackouts in the next couple of days, what we have been suffering from particularly in the southern part of our city are extended blackouts that result from the inability of the PG&E infrastructure grid to be able to operate properly in this heat,” the mayor said. “While certainly the heat is a contributing factor, the fundamental reason is the inadequate infrastructure that PG&E has failed to maintain and replace over many years.”
Liccardo added that he has been in touch with PG&E officials.
Shortly after the online broadcast, Liccardo sent out a statement demanding accountability. “PG&E must be more forthright with the public about its failures to maintain and replace the aging infrastructure that has caused too many San Joseans to lack power throughout the last three days during the worst heatwave in memory,” he said. “They must also be held accountable for their continued failure to live up to their responsibilities. Californians deserve safe, reliable power, and PG&E is not delivering.”
This is hardly the first time that the mayor has taken shots at PG&E.
Last October, the public utility cut power for thousands of San Jose residents, saying the blackouts were part of a wildfire prevention strategy. The unprecedented shutoffs cost the city more than $500,000 and prompted Liccardo to call the state to transform PG&E into a customer-owned utility.
Meanwhile, in Sacramento Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday sent a letter to CAISO, the California Public Utility Commission and the California Energy Commission to demand an investigation into the blackouts that left thousands in the dark this past weekend.
In the letter, the governor said he wasn’t even alerted of the blackouts until moments before they started. “Collectively, energy regulators failed to anticipate this event and to take necessary actions to ensure reliable power to Californians,” Newsom wrote. “This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government. The failure to predict these shortages is unacceptable particularly given our state's work to combat climate change.”
In public advisories, PG&E asked residents to conserve energy by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher between 3 and 10pm through the duration of the heatwave.
Santa Clara County has also opened up 10 cooling centers for those without air conditioning. Masks are required and social distancing will be enforced.
County health officials ask that residents not enter cooling centers if they are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, diarrhea, muscle aches, shortness of breath, headache or loss of smell or taste.
LIVE NOW: I’m leading the City Council to take action tomorrow for police reform in San José. My proposal pushes our system to move misconduct investigations out of the Police Department and into the Independent Police Auditor—enabling the department to more easily fire bad cops. Drop your questions in the comments below to join the conversation. PSA: With a heatwave and PG&E blackouts rolling through our city, it’s important to conserve energy in your home (flexalert.org) and take actions to stay cool, and stay safe (bit.ly/heatsafetytipsSCC).
Posted by Sam Liccardo on Monday, August 17, 2020