PG&E - We Demand Safety AND Service
PG&E - We Demand Safety AND Service
DECLARATION TO PG&E
From the Residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains
We, the undersigned Residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains (the Community), wish to notify The Pacific, Gas, and Electric Company (PG&E) of the following:
Our Community has been experiencing frequent power outages due to PG&E’s failure to provide safe and reliable utility grade electrical power to the residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains That failure to fulfil its obligations has direct and indirect financial burden on the Community residents due to PG&E’s failure to invest sufficiently and meet their responsibilities.
One example is PG&E’s removal of power interruption devices. The Community area is economically penalized by a single power interruption device, that is apparently near the limit of its operating capabilities, resulting in many false alarms, which then require even more lengthy (and expensive) manual line checks, including low flying helicopters, before power can be restored safely. We have 14 neighborhoods with one sensor, a total of 98 miles of mountain wiring, with one recloser. If one neighborhood loses power, then all neighborhoods go dark until safety checks can be completed. We have had nearly 200 hours of outages since January. August alone had 7 outages lasting many hours or days each. Whereas we are pleased that PG&E has some concern to safety, the safest approach would be to implement an electrical supply that is reliable and safe by design. In other words, PG&E has opted to repeatedly shut-off electrical supply to the Community because of a failure to invest in appropriately safe electrical infrastructure, and as a risk mitigation to their own liabilities, with apparent disregard for the costs this has on our Community.
The Community is paying for PG&E’s lack of investment in many ways. Residents, especially those without backup power in the form of automatic generators, solar, or battery backup are exposed to these potentially dangerous conditions:
- Injuries in sudden BLACKOUT situations. The last outage resulted in a young girl tripping in the sudden darkness, resulting in severe head trauma, dozens of stitches, and reconstructive surgery.
- No reverse 911 calls in the event of a fire and an Inability to contact 911 for criminal or medical emergencies
- No power for medical equipment. Your own battery backups for emergency equipment do not last long enough for the vast majority of recent outages
- No running water for many, also meaning no way for firefighters to use residents water supplies in case of fire.
- Loss of water pressure increases probability of a backflow event whereby potable water supplies may be commonly contaminated with raw sewage or pesticides, which has caused loss of life in other communities. Resident-maintained water systems typically experience a pressure loss event due to their own equipment failure on the order of once a year, and this can be contrasted to the twice-weekly rate we have experienced since August 1st due to PG&E power failures.
- Food spoilage - hundreds of dollars per family in August alone.
- Inability to work remotely during a pandemic means lost income, lost paid-time off for many and economic damage to our Community, County, State and Country
- Schools without power for water or necessary COVID related Air-Filtration Systems
For those with generators:
- A considerable risk of fires from over-taxed generators
- Generators failing because most are not built for long-term use
- Prohibitive cumulative fuel costs
- Internet access is still lost for many; peer-to-peer relies on an unbroken chain of hubs, broadband data relies on local servers that have limited battery backup, cell towers do not function. Cell and phone systems often become unusable.
- The regular running of generators are causing additional air and noise pollution.
- For everyone, there is a risk of damage to water systems, appliances, and other critical systems that are not built for constant power cycling; computers not shut down correctly, lost work and other lost data.
- The cost of maintaining battery backups and protective circuits for homes costs many $1000s of dollars for those residents who can afford to mitigate
Stress: Our modern society is built on certain foundational infrastructure, which when unpredictably and suddenly taken away, puts undue stress on people’s ability to reach their potential. Our Community’s day to day lives and productivity is undermined by PG&E’s failure to live up to their role of providing utility power, leaving residents to scramble to adjust, reschedule, etc., and attempt to keep their jobs and companies going through the turmoil.
On a short-term basis, advisories from PG&E could help alleviate some of the stress experienced by the Community during an outage. Yet PG&E’s updates and estimates are wrong 84% of the time. The text or email alerts advise times and dates when power will be restored that are entirely fictional. As owner and operator of the network, it might reasonably be expected that PG&E is well placed to provide accurate and useful information after an hour or two. Instead each advisory predicts that in a few hours or more the grid will be restored, then just before that expires another advisory predicts that in a few hours or more the grid will be restored, etc.. The advisories are thus worthless as they are unreliable and cannot be used to plan any mitigations.
PG&E electrical rates are very high by any standard (in the Unites States, against other similar economies). Other utility providers have environmental conditions similar or worse than PG&E’s. PG&E spends an increasing amount of these electrical rates, and further seeks to increase the rate burden on consumers, in pursuit of ‘safety’. Tree-trimming, helicopters, even compensation to those impacted by PG&E’s own failings are ultimately paid for by their customers. PG&E continues to use ‘safety’ as an excuse to waste rate-payer money.
The ability for other states and country utilities to fulfil their utility role safely is based on investment over many years in a reliable power infrastructure, something that PG&E has chosen not to do. Using the justification that an investor owned utility needs to attract capital from markets that require immediate returns through dividends. The San Diego power utility addressed the fire problem in Southern California by burying lines and investing in appropriate equipment. Now they can benefit from reduced costs and the residents can rely upon safe and reliable power delivery. PG&E needs to change its approach as do those who are responsible for setting the rules that they operate under.
If this is truly being done for safety reason, why has PG&E not invested sufficiently in:
- Insulated high tension wires
- Many more line-breakage devices
- Many more reclosers
- Buried lines
- Implementing these precautionary measures promptly would earn PG&E money in the long run.
Risk is significantly reduced; by using more localized line-break detection, the sensitivity levels can be cranked way up, and because the length of line being tested is much shorter, false alarms are less frequent
Where there is a false alarm, it can be pinpointed far more quickly, and manual line checks are much smaller in scope
Power is lost to a smaller number of customers, reducing the frequency and duration of power losses
PG&E through its lack of investment is damaging California’s economy. We are living in arguably the most technologically advanced, and one of the wealthiest parts of the world. PG&Es inability to properly fulfil their utility role is damaging our present, and our future. If PG&E is not willing or able to adequately invest and maintain a safe and reliable network, then either California pays the cost, or our leaders need to find someone who will. This isn’t rocket science. It’s been done before in absolutely every other advanced economy. The only unique aspect in Northern California, is PG&E.
Over the last decades, you have repeatedly put profits, executive bonuses, and economic gain ahead of the safety and service to your customers. As a result, deferred maintenance has caused death and destruction from wildfires and gas explosions for which you have been found responsible, and barely held accountable. Instead of investing in infrastructure changes that would both improve customer safety AND customer service, you seem only to care about doing the bare minimum to comply with court and state mandates to increase safety to acceptable levels. This appears to be driven only by the cynical motivation of trying to mitigate your own legal exposure, with safety of our communities being merely a side-effect of your meager efforts.
If PG&E or those responsible for oversight and/or political leadership are truly interested in helping this Community improve and survive this excessive impact to our lives, then we would welcome the chance to engage.