SAN FRANCISCO — After a request from the state’s leader, California utility Pacific Gas & Electric on Tuesday said it will credit customers for a power shutoff earlier this month.
“We understand that power shutoffs are more than an inconvenience for our customers and we did not live up to their expectations when it came to communicating this event,” Bill Johnson, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “It’s important to remember that the sole purpose of these power shutoffs is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the communities that we serve.”
The October 9 power shutoff impacted about 738,000 customers, Johnson said.
PG&E will give a one-time credit of $100 to residential customers and $250 to business customers on their bills, the company said in a news release. The company said it is sending reimbursements for the specific event “due to the hardship caused by the website and communications issues,” not because of political pressure.
“We recognize our execution in these areas fell short of expectations, and we have taken steps to reduce those issues going forward,” the company said. The utility giant has kept hundreds of thousands of customers in the dark with multiple shutoffs this month, ahead of wind events it said posed wildfire threats.
Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted the company after the October 9 shutoff, demanding they “be held accountable” and provide rebates or credits after leaving thousands in the dark and some customers without power for days. “Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E’s greed and neglect,” Newsom said in a news release. “PG&E’s mismanagement of the power shutoffs experienced last week was unacceptable.”
The city of San Jose said the shutoff had cost it at least half a million dollars.
Johnson defended the move, saying the decision was made “to keep customers and communities safe,” and it was in accordance with a plan that the California Public Utilities Commission had approved.
Earlier this year, California regulators passed down rules to utilities about intentionally cutting power to prevent wildfires. The commission said the state’s investor-owned electric utilities could proactively interrupt power to reduce the chances that their equipment could cause or contribute to a wildfire.
But the company has been heavily criticized for how it has handled its planned outages.
While it’s been blamed for deadly wildfires in the state in the past — including the 2018 Camp Fire, which left 85 people dead — critics said the company should have invested in improving infrastructure instead of just cutting off power for days.