Nearly 29,000 Northern California residents in designated high-risk wildfire areas had their power restored on Monday, following a weekend in which Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) invoked two public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) in parts of eight counties.
PG&E last Friday proactively turned off power to about 1,600 customers applying the state regulator-approved PSPS fire preventive program in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties. By Saturday evening, the program was expanded to include five Sierra Foothill counties that affected 26,900 customers.
“As of Sunday evening, power restoration was completed for all customers located in areas of Butte and Yuba counties that were impacted by the PSPS for the Sierra Foothills,” PG&E spokesperson James Noonan told NGIon Monday.
Bankruptcy-bound PG&E is facing political and regulatory risks from wildfires while shielding victims, utility customers and the utility energy supply reliability from being irreparably harmed.
Moody’s Investors Service said limiting utility liabilities “looms large” for the state’s major utilities. All of the Southern California public and private sector utilities, as well as Northern California utilities, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Trinity Public Utilities District, continue to have a negative outlook.Also on the credit rating front, S&P Global Ratings said that absent a state legislative solution in the next few weeks, it expects to downgrade the California utilities below investment grade by mid-July.
Reflecting recommendations for wildfire remedies by state’s Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery, ClearView Energy Partners LLC assigned favorable 70-75% odds that “the California legislature will enact incremental reforms for wildfire liability before the end of August.” The draft report “reinforces our view that a wildfire fund enjoys the best prospects for passage this year.”
Commission members have said recommendations would not “let utilities off the hook” in cases where they are found to have acted imprudently.
Separately last week, the bankruptcy court in San Francisco handed PG&E’s power suppliers a setback in ruling that FERC has no power to force the utility to maintain all of its long-term contracts, which total close to $42 billion.
Judge Dennis Montali warned that, if necessary, he might enjoin the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from trying to exercise powers in the bankruptcy process that he said it doesn’t have.
Meanwhile, the Western Governors’ Association at its recent annual meeting in Vail, CO, signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding wildfire responses and mitigation. Building on a memorandum of understanding, the agreement encourages more federal-state cooperation to reduce wildfires along transmission and distribution corridors.
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