There was another power outage in Bernal Heights on Sunday morning, in the most recent in a series of localized blackouts and dangerous equipment failures that have left some Bernal neighbors questioning PG&E’s competence.
ABC7 carried a Bay City News report on Sunday’s incident:
Roughly 4,000 power customers in and around San Francisco’s Bernal Heights and Portrero Hill neighborhoods lost electricity Sunday morning after a PG&E equipment failure, according to utility officials.
The outage was reported at 8:32 a.m., after an unspecified equipment failure in the vicinity of 25th Street and Potrero Avenue. Crews on scene say rainwater ran down an electrical pole, causing a fire and the power outage.
Frustration with PG&E wasn’t hard to find:
It’s probably best to consider this a preview of coming attractions. With El Niño-grade winter storms still to come, this is a good time to remind all Bernalese to stock up on flashlights, lanterns, and batteries for future outages that are likely to follow.
13 thoughts on “Yet Another PG&E Power Outage Leaves Bernal Neighbors Seething”
Trees are not their fault, but in the past couple months it seems like the power has gone out at least four other times. It’s like a freakin’ third world country. And it’s not like I can switch to another company for better service.
This was caused by the fact that “Rainwater ran down an electrical pole, causing a fire & an outage?” Oh boy…Since when was rain a natural disaster? You are certainly right, Todd, let’s load up on candles, flashlights, batteries. And may I recommend a stack of books and a good head lamp? #survivingelniño
When we had that major storm last December, we were without power for over 18 hours – and that, too, was caused by the rain. I’m a little nervous what will happen when and if El Nino rears his head….
Back in 1996 the Clinton administration went gung-ho for de-regulating utilities. This spread to California and other states where they changed the game plan. Used to be that a utility guaranteed a 10% return and did it by adjusting rates and building stable infrastructure so that problems were minimal. After the change in 1996 utilities were told, “Hey, you can make whatever return you want, but you’ll have to go the the state PUC to get rate increases.” So, what happened? PG&E and the telephone companies stopped maintaining equipment and squeezed every last drop of profit out of their companies. This meant “deferred maintenance” (no maintenance) on things like regular replacement of transformers, frayed wiring, circuit breakers, etc. They stopped cutting back trees, stopped unclogging gutters, stopped maintenance on transformer vaults, etc. So, today we’re reaping the disaster that the utilities and the Clinton administration foisted upon us.
The solution? Go back to the old model: Guarantee PG&E a specific return on investment with a hefty fine for infrastructure failures. Will this ever happen? Not while the state PUC is in bed with PG&E.
The blame on this is not right at all. The CPUC is a state agency, not a federal agency and is controlled by state law. State Senators Steve Peace, Jim Brulte and Gov Wilson drafted and passed AB 1890 which deregulated the electrical utilities in the state (again, controlled by state law, not federal law). The Clinton administration wasn’t involved in state legislation. Deregulation split the generation of power from the distribution of power to customers and enabled companies like Enron, Dynergy and Reliant to overschedule power, and shut down plants to create false power shortages. PG&E went bankrupt in late 2000/early 2001 (their maintenance has always been and is still regulated by the CPUC). The Clinton administration did everything it could during its last days to keep the lights on here by cutting federal power usage and swinging as much power from federal generation (Bonneville, etc) as it could. On Jan 21, 2001, just after the inauguration, Dick Cheney sent out word to the federal agencies to stop helping. There are lots of problems with maintenance, agency capture and deregulation, but this isn’t a remotely correct description.
None of which is to absolve PG&E from any responsibility for these recent outages, which have been ridiculous.
The Clinton Administration was very gung-ho about competition in the utilities and, therefore, deregulation. They promoted it and greased the wheels. They also DID try to pass some legislation that would insure some protections. I don’t know if it passed-
Here is an interesting article written in 1999 by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson about this very thing: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-adv/specialsales/energy/report/article1.html
Here is another article in 1999 about the concerns raised over the new market competition way of doing it
The bill died in Congress May 13, 1999. The Clinton Admin was not able to follow up their open competition highway with regulatory controls. The cat was out of the bag. Utility companies became For-Profit enterprises. I hope my other comment gets posted, as I posted some links to Washington Post articles about this issue in 1999, particularly by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Bernalwood has to moderate posts with links in them.
good point. And, I remember when that went down, and thought it was probably going to be trouble. And it IS!
Well, I think David does have a point, because I think there was a green light from the Federal that States could proceed with making their own arrangements, giving them more leeway regarding regulation. Maybe they already had it, but the Feds were supposed to help, and, as you said, then subsequent administrations changed the game. At least, that’s the way I remember it.
I have never experienced so many outages since travelling in India. You would think such third world problems would not exist in an expensive, modern city like San Francisco. Then again, infrastructure in USA as a whole needs a huge overhaul if we want to be on par with other so-called developed nations.
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