Nov 20, 2019

PG&E and the rise of "resilience culture"

A PG&E contractor works on utility poles. Photo: Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images

PG&E will start cutting power Wednesday to about 150,000 customers in 18 California counties in the latest wave of preemptive blackouts to curb wildfire risks.

Why you'll hear about this again: The embattled utility will probably need to keep doing this for a long time. But the blackouts are just one force speeding the rise of what Shayle Kann of the VC firm Energy Impact Partners calls "resilience culture."

  • It's how Kann, in a new Medium post, describes the wider move among people, local officials and companies to prepare assets for severe weather and disasters.
"I think we’re on the cusp of a cultural transformation, one in which the idea of investing in resilience gains mainstream status for anyone who owns something worth protecting."
Shayle Kann

Where is stands: He explores how the PG&E shutoffs have accelerated the trend of companies marketing backup power like generators and solar-plus-storage systems.

  • But that's just one part of the picture.
  • The post covers a spike in backup power interest after 2017's Hurricane Harvey hit Texas; the benefits of fire-resistant buildings; widening recognition of the need for utilities to invest in infrastructure hardening and more.

The bottom line: Kann cites analyses showing that retrofitting homes to harden against disasters is a slam-dunk from a cost-benefit standpoint, and that utility investments in resilient equipment will yield ratepayer savings.

What's next: Kann, whose post is adapted from his wider presentation at Energy Impact Partners' annual meeting and touts their portfolio companies, acknowledges that resilience investments have "historically been a tough sell."

  • But he adds: "[M]y bet is that every year that we break records for new threats, we’ll inch toward this resilience mindset."

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PG&E bankruptcy judge sides with fire victims in liability challenge

Streaks of lights from vehicles drive along highway 24 during an Oct. 10 PG&E power shutoff in Oakland, Calif. Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

PG&E lost a challenge Wednesday to a California law holding it liable for billions of dollars in wildfire damage connected to its equipment, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: The ruling in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco by Judge Dennis Montali is a victory for victims of the state's 2017 and 2018 wildfires, who are hoping to be awarded damages for their affected properties in the utility’s bankruptcy.

Go deeperArrowNov 28, 2019

California governor blocks PG&E bankruptcy plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom notified Pacific Gas and Electric that he rejected the utility's bankruptcy plan on Friday, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Newsom said PG&E falls "woefully short," lacking critical accounting and safety measures, corporate governance and capital structure requirements in the state's new wildfire liability law. The governor's rejection is a blow for PG&E, as the company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy in the coming months and begin compensating wildfire victims, the Post notes.

Go deeperArrowDec 14, 2019

PG&E electricity shut-offs drive Californians' interest in solar power

Photo: Andrew Aitchison/InPictures via Getty Images

The solar industry came out with new data yesterday showing record residential installations in the third quarter, edging out prior highs in 2016.

The intrigue: One part of the quarterly report that caught my eye confirms that PG&E's power shut-offs are driving interest in solar-plus-battery systems, though the real effect won't be known for a while.

Go deeperArrowDec 13, 2019