California May Go Dark This Summer, and Most Aren't Ready

California utility PG&E is planning on blackouts during high wind events in wildfire season to prevent serious damage to the power system. While some communities are preparing backup plans such as microgrid networks and some residential customers have invested in solar and battery storage systems, the blackouts would come as a change and shock to many in the state.

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A plan by California’s biggest utility to cut power on high-wind days during the onrushing wildfire season could plunge millions of residents into darkness. And most people aren’t ready.

The plan by PG&E Corp. comes after the bankrupt utility said a transmission line that snapped in windy weather probably started last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history. While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be days and days of blackouts.

Some residents are turning to other power sources, a boon for home battery systems marketed by Sunrun Inc.Tesla Inc. and Vivint Solar Inc. But the numbers of those systems in use are relatively small when compared with PG&E’s 5.4 million customers. Meanwhile, Governor Gavin Newsom said he’s budgeting $75 million to help communities deal with the threat.

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