More than 1 million Californians were without electricity during the largest public safety power shutoffs in state history. The shutoffs were implemented during the second week of October by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) over its vast service territory, one of the largest in the United States. Already facing bankruptcy as a result of claims from major wildfires that occurred over the past two years, the utility was being proactive in moving forward with an aggressive approach to public safety.
Weather forecasts showed good probability of major wind storms. These forecasts, coupled with the dry landscape of California at this time of year (due to lack of summer rains), meant the move to implement shutoffs could be viewed as prudent. Nevertheless, the shutoffs exposed the lack of grid resilience in a state that prides itself in cutting-edge technologies and digital innovation. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed more than 20 bills to address the wildfire threat, the insolvency of PG&E and related issues, California remains at risk for future shutoffs and wildfires.
In addition to digital grid automation investments and shutoff policies, perhaps a better solution is microgrids.