Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
As you’ve read in our previous story, the ongoing PG&E power outages have posed not just an inconvenience but a safety risk to millions of customers across Northern California. All of this has left residents asking if the shutoffs are worth it and if there’s a better way to prevent wildfires. Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations, said this was a necessary move to protect public safety and that the company “appreciate[s] the public’s patience” but others aren’t quite as sure.
Occasionally switching off the electricity is an unsustainable plan for grappling with fire risks that will continue to rise in California and elsewhere as climate change accelerates.
Though it’s worth noting that there’s no easy and cheap answer to the threat of wildfire risk–we will have to grapple with the effects of climate change and invest in energy infrastructure that is better prepared to meet them.
Alternatives to Shutoffs:
Microgrids that rely on local renewable generation and battery storage. Though they will still require wires, microgrids eliminate the need for long-range transmission lines.
Burying transmission and distribution line. However, this is really difficult work (especially in environmentally sensitive areas) and it would cost well over $100 billion to bury lines across PG&E’s entire territory.
However, most importantly, wildfire-prone regions will need to make fundamental changes in zoning laws, building standards, forest management, utility tree-trimming practices, early detection, warning systems, etc., if they are to get serious about fire preparedness. It will take a comprehensive effort at the federal and state level to mitigate the risks of these deadly and increasingly frequent fires.
Why This Matters: California’s state fire protection agency has not studied whether the power cutoffs have had any effect on the number of wildfires that California has seen, according to the LA Times. Therefore it’s difficult to say if the outages have been worth the inconvenience they have caused. Additionally, bringing back power to the grid is no easy feat. As Sumeet Singh, a PG&E vice president, explained, technicians will need to inspect “every inch” of line before restoring power which could take as long as five days. Overall, the shutoffs have been poorly planned on the part of PG&E and have put millions of people into an extremely uncertain situation.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer The Biden administration and automakers are hatching plans to make electric vehicles (EVs) represent 40% of all car sales by the end of this decade. But as the government and the public begin to embrace the idea of an electric future, engineers and environmentalists struggle to balance new demand for […]
A new study has found that a small subset of power plants has been responsible for the majority of emissions— the top 5% of polluters are responsible for 73% of emissions from the electric sector. A group of researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder analyzed 2018 data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Would you support or oppose the government moving the country to a 100% clean energy electricity grid by 2035? That’s the question Washington-based think tank Third Way posed across the country. It turns out that a majority of voters support federal action to reach a 100% clean energy grid. […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.