No PSPS Events During COVID-19?

Published On: April 20, 2020

On April 13, local governments, power providers and consumer advocates called on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to issue an emergency order setting standards for public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The groups argued that preventative blackouts would endanger infected patients and health care facilities, as well as hinder residents already limited by disease-related measures, with stay-at-home orders likely extending into hotter months and wildfire season.

The filing by the group said utilities shouldn’t perform a shut-off without first providing state and local officials an analysis of how a blackout’s benefits would outweigh consequences. That analysis must consider hospitalized coronavirus patients in the shut-off zone, along with residents connected to medical equipment and critical facilities dealing with the disease. These considerations are similar to concerns about at-risk residents raised during last fall’s PSPS events.

Local governments, under the proposed standards, could request and receive exemptions from an individual shut-off if the consequences outweigh the benefits. A written confirmation from local officials that a blackout wouldn’t exceed their response capacity would also be required in an area with a stay-at-home order, among other proposed standards.

The latest requests are similar to ideas the groups proposed in the CPUC’s rulemaking on shutoffs before coronavirus. CPUC is not obligated to respond, but they could incorporate the ideas into a proposed decision due next month.

About the Author: Jesus Arredondo

Jesus Arredondo is an Energy Industry Analyst and former State of California official. He can be reached at jesus at govreport.org