California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Marybel Batjer recently ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) to take a multitude of immediate corrective actions after it encountered significant problems with communication, coordination, and management during the largest Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event in the history of California.
The PG&E’s decision to shut off power during the week of Oct. 7, 2019, affected more than 700,000 customers and impacted an estimated two million people.
"Failures in execution, combined with the magnitude of this PSPS event, created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated," said President Batjer. "The scope, scale, complexity, and overall impact to people’s lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated."
In an urgent letter to PG&E Chief Executive Officer William Johnson on Oct. 21, President Batjer and CPUC officials outlined seven major areas where immediate corrective actions are required. CPUC staff and experts at state and PG&E operations centers witnessed problems unfolding during the event and received input from other state and local agencies to identify the immediate corrective actions required.
Some of the corrective actions outlined in the president’s letter include:
- Accelerating the restoration of power with a goal of less than 12 hours, similar to what is required after major storms;
- Enhancing efforts to minimize the size and magnitude of future PSPS events;
- Developing systems and protocols to ensure public information through call centers and the PG&E’s website is available during high-volume, critical times;
- Establishing a more effective communication structure with county and tribal government emergency management personnel to allow for emergency personnel to receive the support and information required to properly respond;
- Improving processes and systems for distributing maps with boundaries to impacted counties and tribal governments that correspond to the latest PSPS impact information being provided;
- Developing a list of existing and possible future agreements for on-call resources that can be called upon in case of an emergency; and,
- Ensuring that PG&E personnel involved in PSPS response in emergency operations centers are trained in California’s Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS).
Several additional requirements are detailed in the CPUC’s letter to the PG&E.
In addition to the immediate corrective actions outlined in her letter, President Batjer directed the PG&E to perform an after-action review and file its response with the CPUC by the close of business Oct. 17, 2019. The utility has also been asked to file weekly updates on corrective actions until all concerns have been addressed.
The CPUC held an emergency meeting on Oct. 18, 2019, at its headquarters at 505 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco to hear from top PG&E executives about what lessons have been learned from this latest event and what steps will be taken to ensure mistakes and operational gaps are not repeated. This emergency meeting was intended to ensure CPUC commissioners and staff have as much information as possible and can take additional actions as necessary ahead of future PSPS events triggered by the PG&E. The meeting has been archived here.