It’s hard to imagine what San Jose—the 10th largest U.S city—would look like if it went dark. But a plan by California’s largest energy provider could do just that.
PG&E is set to cut power in areas around the Bay Area, including in San Jose, during high-wind days this summer to prevent the spread of wildfires in Northern California. The plan, euphemistically termed by the company as “de-energization,” could leave millions of residents in the Bay Area in darkness for hours—or even days—at a time when many residents might need electricity the most.
In response, the San Jose City Council will review a set of goals today to ensure that PG&E hews to the city’s priorities as it rolls out the plan, which is similar to a program already in effect in Southern California.
“These goals align with the city’s legislative guiding principles to protect local control and support efforts that improve the quality of life, affordability, health, environmental protection, economic development, equity, and safety in San Jose,” a memo by San Jose Director of Community Energy Lori Mitchell states.
The council has asked that PG&E be more transparent in communicating with city officials and emergency services during a controlled blackout, and outreach efforts to the community before, during and after such events. The city would like PG&E to coordinate clear plans with hospitals, police, fire stations and water facilities.
“Wildfire risk coordination must ensure that the impacts to residents, businesses, and municipal services of multi-day power outages are thoroughly considered and evaluated prior to the authorization of outages, particularly transmission level outages to large urban areas,” per the Mitchell memo
As PG&E’s primary purpose is to mitigate wildfire risk, the city has also demanded that the utility also look into investing fire-preventative and public safety measures for the city. “Shareholder profits should be realigned to link directly to demonstrated safety performance, affordability, and electric decarbonization,” the memo reads.
The potential move by the company comes as public confidence in PG&E wanes. The company, which filed or bankruptcy in January, has been blamed for the 2017 series of wildfires in Northern California, and the Camp Fire in Butte County that resulted in 85 deaths—the deadliest wildfire in state history.
Despite the company’s trouble in the field and the boardroom, state regulators have granted PG&E almost exclusive discretion to determine what parts of San Jose to shut down during a high-wind day, according to a city memo. City officials say the company has offered little guidance on how to manage such a large outage.
The city manager has requested “more information” to determine just how the energy giant would help prepare the city’s emergency services arm for such an event.
Click here to reach the city's landing page about the planned outages.
More from the San Jose City Council meeting for June 25, 2019:
- The city will issue the first round of Measure T bonds, which will fund various kinds of transportation and public works projects through 2021. According to a city memo, projects include: bridges and street repair, LED streetlight conversion, public safety, sewer upgrades, environmental protection and emergency and disaster shelters. A full list of projects can be found here.
- City Manager Dave Sykes is angling for $6.4 million in grants from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to revitalize Overfelt Gardens Park, Emma Prusch Farm Park and Roosevelt Roller Hockey Rink. The funds are made available through Prop. 68, which voters passed last year and which authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection, water infrastructure and flood protection. To be eligible for such funds, parks must be in a “park-poor or disadvantaged community.”
- Updates will be heard on the mayor’s “granny unit” program.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260