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PG&E’s intentional outages in Northern California are over—for now

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Company president insists that fire risks—not PG&E—are to blame for leaving millions without power

Darkened trees in the foreground, with tall buildings shimmering with lights in another city on the other side of a bay in the background.
The city of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge are seen from the Oakland Hills during the PG&E power outage in Oakland on October 10.
Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) says that it has restored power to the last of the Northern California households affected by last week’s intentional mass outages.

But the company plans to continue its “public safety power shutoff” program and may institute new outages in the future.

On Saturday, the utility stated that every PG&E customer affected “had their power restored as of Saturday afternoon.”

In all, the company shut off power to an estimated 738,000 customers in 34 counties during the week. Originally, PG&E projected a count of around 600,000 in 30 counties, but expanded the scope of the blackout days later.

Note that while PG&E uses the term “customers,” this refers to individual power meters rather than individual people. A count of 738,000 households could easily mean millions of Californians.

While the company says that most of those affected had power back within 48 hours; some Bay Area residents waited as long as four days for restoration.

As of Monday, PG&E’s power outage map tool shows a handful of outages in the Bay Area, but all of them less than 24 hours old. A large blackout affecting over 300 households in Nob Hill was the result of planned maintenance in the area.

The company also says that it identified 50 cases of damage to electrical equipment in the blackout area, including downed power lines.

Both the general public and California elected officials lambasted PG&E over the outages, including Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Although San Francisco was one of a handful of areas not directly affected, Supervisor Hillary Ronen joined the chorus on Friday, saying via an emailed statement: “[F]or the safety and well-being of our city and the entire region, [SF must] cut our ties to this failed private utility.”

Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo, a longtime critic of the utility, told KCBS that the California Public Utilities Commission will investigate PG&E over the intentional outages and once again threatened to break the company up into smaller components.

PG&E stands by its shutdown policy, with President Bill Johnson calling the outages a “monumental undertaking. He argued that increased risk from wildfires—and not company practice—was the root of the problem.