Consumer Watchdog Calls Utilities Turning Off Lights in Wind 'Blackout Blackmail'

October 16, 2018 - 5:07 pm

(KNX 1070) -- Consumer Watchdog group says it wants the state to stop the utilities from turning off the lights on windy days. 

In a letter to the California Public Utility Commission, Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court is asking the utility companies not only to stop the preemptive blackouts but to investigate after some Northern California utilities did it over the weekend.

“We urge you to investigate each and every time a utility turns out the lights due to high winds and to disallow such shut downs absent a concrete threat in a specific geographic location where firefighters determine such a threat exists,” Consumer Watchdog wrote in a letter to President of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker. “We have received numerous calls in recent days from people complaining of school closures due to power cutoffs and even life-threatening conditions for elderly relatives living at home who rely on their electric utility to power their oxygen machines round-the-clock.”

Jamie Court says proactive blackouts should only happen if there’s an imminent threat because shutting off power can endanger lives.

SoCal Edison says in July the PUC approved rigorous standards that allow utilities to shut off power on windy days. A spokesman says they don’t do it on a whim and more than the wind is factored in before a decision is made to cut power in high fire risk areas.