PG&E to credit customers impacted by Oct. 9 blackout

Elisabeth Ludwig/Staff

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PG&E released a tweet Tuesday that it will credit customers who were impacted by the Oct. 9 power outage because of difficulties caused by its website and communication issues.

PG&E spokesperson Jennifer Robison said this one-time, on-bill reimbursement will credit residential customers $100 and business customers $250. The funding for the credit will come from shareholders and will appear in the next one or two billing cycles as a “customer satisfaction adjustment,” according to Robison.

PG&E president and CEO William Johnson said in a statement the Oct. 9 power outage impacted 738,000 customers.

“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,” Johnson said in the statement.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a statement that the October outage was a “frustrating and stressful experience for everyone involved.”

Arreguín added that the reimbursement is a “welcome step,” but a “major overhaul” on how these planned outages take place is still necessary. He attributed unclear information, website failures and lack of resources as causing “difficulties” for the community during a “potentially life-threatening situation.”

“The City is still calculating the costs of these events and significant overtime additional first responder staffing is a large component of the expense,” Arreguín said in the statement.

He added that he is supportive of SB 378. According to Arreguín, SB 378 would create a process for businesses, individuals and local governments to recuperate the cost of planned power outages, with utility shareholders paying the price.

While Johnson and PG&E believe this is the “right thing to do,” those in the community who were impacted by the outage are not satisfied by the credit PG&E is offering.

UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Sergio Martinez said while his residence in Oakland did not lose power, the outages disrupted his classes and routine.

“I think it’s horrible that one of the richest states in the world can’t figure out its infrastructure,” Martinez said. “I don’t think it’s fair for the consumers and for people who live in the state to deal with that.”

In addition to his discontent with the outages, Martinez said he doesn’t believe the money PG&E is offering businesses is enough.

“Maybe for the consumer $100 might sort of help out considering how much (energy) they use, but for a small business, I feel like that’s nowhere near enough, particularly for those small business that lost a lot of food and perishable products,” Martinez said. “I don’t agree with how much (the $250) is. It’s not even a start for that matter.”

Murad Ibrahim, owner of the Hummingbird Cafe, said while his shop did not lose power during the outage, it slowed down business.

“It’s just frustrating that everyone living here has to deal with PG&E not wanting to reinvest in their infrastructure to provide a safe grid for everyone living on from year to year,” Ibrahim said. “Especially when you take on the fact that climate change is what it is now … Something has to be done.”

Contact Kaleo Mark at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @kaleomark_dc.