State Approves PG&E Blackout Plan

State regulators Thursday approved PG&E’s plan to impose blackouts this summer across vast stretches of its territory to prevent major wildfires and are telling customers they can't count on reliable electric service as the fire season gets underway.  The Public Utilities Commission approved PG&E's "wildfire mitigation plan," in which blackouts could conceivably hit every one of PG&E's 5.4 million electric households and business customers during times of gusting winds, low humidity and other risky conditions.  Last year, only 570,000 of PG&E's households and business customers were subject to potential blackouts.   This year the universe of potential blackout customers has grown tenfold, to include the utility's entire service territory.  PUC commissioners said they're sensitive to concerns about problems that can be caused by mass blackouts and imposing a blackout "should be taken as a last resort to prevent devastating wildfires.  The PUC’s ruling calls for utilities to coordinate with local officials so the public can be warned in advance.  But with fire threats increasing, at the end of the day, Californians should be ready for power outages.  Yesterday’s decision comes as state officials continue to struggle with the question of wildfire liabilities.

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