SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The mayor of San Jose said he is losing faith in PG&E’s ability to serve the city during major heat waves after more than 100,000 residents lost power when temperatures soared above 100 degrees this week.
The Mayor’s Office wrote, “In a frustrating and menacing replay of August 2020, fears of heat-induced rolling blackouts resulting from insufficient load capacity statewide did not materialize this week, but nearly 100,000 San Jose residents were left in the dark anyway.”
PG&E’s local distribution infrastructure failed in the middle of a scorching heat wave because multiple transformers blew up, according to the mayor’s office. The transformer explosions shut down power for more than 30,000 households and three hospitals in San Jose.
“This is unacceptable,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said.
On Thursday, Liccardo proposed that if PG&E does not present a plan for immediate replacement or repair of the company’s failing infrastructure, the city will seek a court injunction or Public Utility Commission order mandating PG&E to do so.
“I have deep concerns about the safety of our residents and the viability of San Jose small businesses struggling against ongoing failures of a power grid hampered by poor maintenance and outdated equipment,” Liccardo said.
The mayor said his Silicon Valley city’s residents were forced to deal with heat wave-related power outages while other California cities maintained power in even higher temperatures.
“The march of climate change will continue, but other California cities subjected to far worse heat do not suffer the rate of power outages as the City of San Jose. Our residents’ health and safety depend on a reliable grid, and PG&E has an obligation to provide that to San José ratepayers,” Liccardo said.
In some East San Jose neighborhoods, including Tully and King, residents reported that the power outages also took down cellular networks operated by AT&T. Backup generators at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center also failed, and its building lost air conditioning, lighting equipment, and computer access.
Liccardo said, “We need to better understand why these failures disproportionately afflict PG&E’s operations in San Jose. More importantly, and we need to get them fixed whether PG&E does so voluntarily, or under judicial or regulatory mandate. We can no longer merely hope that PG&E will live up to its obligation to San Jose ratepayers to do so.”
Heat-fatigued residents sweated out more hot weather Thursday as temperatures climbed up to 102 degrees.
The unprecedented September heat wave prompted the California Independent Operator to issue yet another Flex Alert on Thursday, lasting until 10 p.m. Thursday’s Flex Alert was the ninth consecutive alert for the San Francisco Bay Area. A Flex Alert is a call for consumers to voluntarily conserve electricity when there is a predicted shortage of energy supply, especially if the grid operator needs to dip into reserves to cover demand.
PG&E spokesman Jason King told KRON4 that the utility took an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to keeping the power on in Santa Clara County.
“In response to the week-long, unprecedented heat wave, PG&E has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to keeping the power on for our customers and restoring it safely and as quickly as possible when there is an outage. We have thousands of coworkers working safely to keep our electric system operating despite the long stretch of triple-digit temperatures and lack of night-time cooling,” King wrote.
“In our San Jose Division, of the 118,000 customers who lost power at various times due to the impact of heat on our system, 70% were restored in six hours of less,” King wrote.
In PG&E’s San Jose and De Anza divisions, more than 500 PG&E employees and contractors responded to outages caused by the heat, including line crews, tree crews and troublemen, according to King.
“More broadly, delivering safe, reliable and clean energy to our customers is at the core of our work. Our electric and gas operations work to deliver for our customers today, while taking into consideration future risks from climate change. That’s why, in 2021, we made $8.6 billion in capital investments to enhance and upgrade PG&E’s infrastructure for safety, reliability and wildfire mitigation,” King wrote.