Looming Californian winds force utilities to consider power cuts

California’s three biggest utility companies are considering cutting power in response to forecast dry winds which could spark wildfires.

The companies could cut power to prevent live wires from sparking fires during high winds.

Winds that can fan flames and knock power lines down are forecast to rattle Southern California through Friday, with the worst of it on Wednesday and Thursday, the US National Weather Service said.

The high winds will be mostly confined to Southern California but could touch a portion of the state’s Central Valley as well.

Edison International’s Southern California Edison warned it may need to shut off electricity to more than 230,000 homes and businesses in eight counties- which would equate to some 690,000 people based on the size of the average household.

It would also constitute the region’s largest public-safety blackout this year.

Edison’s cuts could begin between late Wednesday and Friday, Edison spokesman Chris Abel said.

Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric utility also warned this week that 88,700 homes and businesses, or more than 260,000 people, could lose power this week, and possibly remain in the dark through Sunday or Monday next week.

Most affected customers would be in the mountains east of San Diego.

Meanwhile PG&E, California’s largest utility, said it may cut power to about 600 homes and businesses in Kern County this week as well.

Last week, Edison cut power to thousands of customers on Thanksgiving during high winds.

In 2019, PG&E – one of the most important towers for the US liability insurance market – was forced to file for bankruptcy after its wires sparked the deadliest blaze in state history.

California has already been charred by record fires that have burned 4.2 million acres and killed 31 people in 2020. Utilities including Edison and PG&E have cut power repeatedly to prevent live wires from falling into dry brush.