Oct 19, 2019

California utility says intentional blackouts could be needed for 10 years

Owners of the New Bait Shop and Davey Jones Market talk to a customer in front of their store on Oct. 10, 2019 in Sausalito, California. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

PG&E's CEO Bill Johnson said Friday that it could be a decade before the company has made enough improvements to its electric infrastructure to prevent widespread pre-emptive blackouts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What he's saying: “I think they’ll decrease in size and scope every year,” he said. “But at the same time we’re doing this the risk is not static, it’s dynamic and it goes up every year.”

What's happening: The California Public Utilities Commission grilled Johnson and other PG&E executives on Friday over a four-day power shutoff that affected roughly 2 million people in an attempt to prevent wildfires.

  • Marybel Batjer, president of the commission, said the executives "failed on so many levels on pretty simple stuff," AP reports.
  • “Making the right decision on safety is not the same as executing that decision well,” Johnson said on Friday. “PG&E has to be better prepared than it was this time.”

The bottom line: PG&E supplies electricity and gas to 16 million people, per the WSJ, and its equipment caused 19 major fires in 2017 and 2018, primarily due to wind causing vegetation to hit live wires.

Go deeper: California officials are unhappy with PG&E's power shutoffs

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The polarized pandemic election

A Trump supporter protests Pennsylvania's stay-at-home order, during a May 15 rally outside the Capitol in Harrisburg. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

President Trump is going all-in on pushing for a rapid, robust return to normal life, creating a visual, visceral contrast with Joe Biden and other Democrats who are more reticent to rip the masks off.

The state of play: Business friends have been urging Trump from the beginning to keep the lockdowns short. He's listening more and more.

Tech's long hot summer of antitrust

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google, Facebook and other tech giants face a summer of regulatory grilling as long-running investigations into potential anticompetitive practices likely come to a head.

The big picture: Probes into the power of Big Tech launched by federal and state authorities are turning a year old, and observers expect action in the form of formal lawsuits and potentially damning reports — even as the companies have become a lifeline for Americans during the pandemic lockdown.

Palantir CEO hits Silicon Valley "monoculture," may leave California

Palantir is "getting close" to a decision on whether to move the company out of California, CEO Alex Karp said in an interview for "Axios on HBO."

The state of play: "We haven't picked a place yet, but it's going to be closer to the East Coast than the West Coast. ... If I had to guess, I would guess something like Colorado."