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PG&E to offer credits after Oct. 9 outage

UPDATE: 10/29/19 8:15 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric is offering credits to customers impacted in the October 9 Public Safety Power Shutoff that impacted hundreds of thousands of people around California.

In a statement released Tuesday night, in the middle of another planned power outage, CEO Bill Johnson writes that the utility will have a one-time bill credit because they “did not live up to their expectations when it came to communicating about this event,” referring to the Oct. 9 shutoff.

PG&E is moving forward with Governor Newsom’s suggestion. Residential customers will receive a $100 credit and business customers will receive a $250 credit. The utility says that no action is needed by the customers to get the credit. It will automatically be sent to the customers’ accounts.

The October 9 shutoff was difficult for customers who lost power because of issues with PG&E’s website and communication systems. While they increased the ability of their website to handle web traffic, it was not nearly enough and people were unable to access planned outage and current outage maps. The PG&E call centers were also overwhelmed.

Santa Cruz County had roughly 50,000 customers impacted in the Oct 9 power outage, according to PG&E. Power returned to the final impacted customers on Oct 12. ​​​​​​​

Newsom had previously suggested $100 per household, or $250 per business. Johnson said customers deserve credits because the utility handled the outage poorly – with a faulty website, inaccurate maps and unreliable lines of communication.

As of 5 p.m Tuesday, PG&E says about 435,000 customers – or nearly 1.1 million people – were without power in a different planned outage.

The overall weather picture in northern areas is improving, as powerful, dry winds bring extreme fire weather to Southern California.

Full statement from the CEO:

“We recognize the hardship caused by Public Safety Power Shutoffs in general and how those hardships were exacerbated by our website and call center communications issues related to the Oct. 9 PSPS event that impacted 738,000 customers. We are constantly working to execute these safety shutoffs more effectively while prioritizing public safety. 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.

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 about this event. We have carefully considered the Governor’s request to provide reimbursement for our customers impacted by the Oct. 9 PSPS and we have agreed to move forward with a one-time bill credit for customers impacted by that event.

This is not an industry standard practice, nor approved as part of a tariff, but we believe it is the right thing to do for our customers in this case, given the challenges with our website and call center communications.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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