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PG&E – Reasonable Judgement

This publication is detailed narrative of the challanges PG&E finds themselves in, and some partial solutions.


John Benson's picture

Thank John for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 1, 2019

"My question is: shouldn't they have been doing this all along. This is especially since they said (after the original San Bruno sentencing) "We at PG&E have committed ourselves to a goal of transforming this company into the safest and most reliable energy provider in America. Of course, words are not enough, and we expect to be judged by our actions."

John, there are a lot of aspects of PG&E's actions and policy which are indefensible. Yes - they "should have been" doing this all along. But then ratepayers would be howling about 25%-higher bills due to "unnecessary" inspections and maintenance.

In any tragedy there is more than enough finger-pointing to go around, but PG&E is not going away (rumors of a purchase continue to swirl). We can only hope judges and legislators will be able to come to an agreement about what proportion can be blamed on PG&E vs. force majeure (Acts of God). "Should PG&E be liable for not sufficiently addressing the new reality of climate change?", is the 30-billion-dollar question.


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on February 1, 2019

Interesting that you bring up drones as a potential solution, John. These would be drones that would simply be for inspections and monitoring where attention is needed, nothing that would actually complete maintenance on its own-- am I right about that?

John Benson's picture
John Benson on February 4, 2019

Throughout my professional career I've been very supportive of PG&E and have worked with them on many projects. I also believe that they are trying to improve their record on fire safety, but one of the problems they are struggling with is their sins of the past. They have had issues with vegetation management and gas pipeline maintenance going back decades. I expect when the latter took high priority after the San Bruno Fire, the former got increasingly short-changed, especially "...small communities in the wildland-urban interface." The urban and suburb areas are under close scrutiny. The areas like Paradise, not so much.

Matt: the main problems are inspections. PG&E does not directly trim the brush and trees, but rather contract this out to hundreds to thousands of professional arborist companies. They will need to replace or repair any suspect distribution and transmission lines and apparatus. We are lucky in that this is a really wet year and we probably have until late summer to get the work done in the most susceptible areas.

One last minute development I decided not to dig into was the fact that many of their senior managers are leaving now, including their CEO and at least one that my company (Siemens) worked closely with.

One other comment: as I indicated at the end of the paper linked below, local communities need to take responsibility for making their areas more resilient. It’s easy to find a villain and blame them for everything, but this is rarely the case.

Barry Breede's picture
Barry Breede on February 7, 2019

Unfortunately upping inspection levels likely leads to identification of more maintenance issues and hence even more costs.  The legal liability of knowingly avoiding or simply being unable to fund maintenance on an asset that has been inspected and ultimately fails could be significant.  Slowing down inspection rates to better match available O&M budgets---it's a bit of a vicious cycle,  especially when you look not only at PG&E, but the entire country's aging infrastructure

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