IMPORTANT: It's a Serious Matter of Life

California utilities facing millions in fines over botched power shut-offs in 2020

California utility companies could face fines of $22 million for the “poor execution” of power shutoff events in 2020 under proposed penalties introduced by the California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday.

Officials announced $12 million in fines against Pacific Gas & Electric Company, $10 million against Southern California Edison, and $24,000 against San Diego Gas & Electric. The CPUC said it also directed the three utility companies and PacifiCorp to take “specific corrective actions” in the future to ensure compliance with the commission’s “public safety and notification requirements.”

Under California law, utilities are allowed to shut off electric power when it’s a matter of public safety, such as a severe wildfire threat. The CPUC created a set of guidelines for utilities conducting power shutoffs, which includes timelines for notifying households impacted.

All three power companies were fined for not complying with CPUC guidelines throughout several power shutoff events in 2020. All three companies were found to have violated several guidelines, including requirements for notifying customers of power outages.

Regulators found the SDG&E “was not able to provide” advanced notification of power shut-offs to thousands of customers prior to several outages in 2020.

A spokesperson for SDG&E said they are still reviewing the proposed order and is “always looking to evolve our processes and innovate our operations because the safety of our customers and the communities we serve remains our top priority.”

A spokesperson for Southern California Edison called the order “counter-productive because it focuses on the early stages of our PSPS program, not on the tremendous progress made since.”

“The company has taken significant steps to improve our PSPS,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Center Square, later adding that the company has improved its system by adding new language options and increased customer outreach during outages since 2020.

Utilities have 30 days to pay the fine and make corrective actions or request a hearing, according to regulators.

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