Our View | SCE’s Night Before Christmas

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house… not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

At least that’s the way it was for more than 10,000 homes in Canyon Country on Christmas Eve.

You see, Southern California Edison, our electric power provider, decided to turn off their electricity.

What, you say? Decided?

You meant that a transformer blew? Or a power line went down? Or a traffic accident caused the outage, right?

Well, no.

Southern California Edison decided to turn off the power on these homes deliberately, the day before Christmas.

They say they are doing this to prevent possible fires that may occur due to high winds. The power companies have been held liable for the damage they caused when fires break out due to their power lines going down. 

SCE calls the shutdowns Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS. SCE cuts off the power in order to avoid the chance of a fire breaking out due to a power line going down, as has happened on occasion in recent years in California. So, the power companies look at weather forecasts and decide to cut off power where and when they think there may be high winds (no holidays excluded).

But of course, people rely on a stable electricity supply not only for routine daily life, but also for evacuation warnings, health care and essential services such as water, lighting and heat.

This all started after the huge Camp Fire that broke out in Northern California in 2019, causing billions of dollars of damage and forcing Pacific Gas & Electric — the power company that serves Northern California — to go bankrupt. Pacific Gas & Electric’s equipment and power lines were old and decrepit and the company hadn’t done regular repairs, or upgraded their power lines, or invested in any major new equipment for years. PG&E is a monopoly so they are guaranteed a profit by the state Public Utilities Commission, but the company claimed it did not spend the money to repair the lines because they were spending money on new green energy, like wind and solar.

We understand that running a business is a challenge and a utility is no exception, but there really is no excuse for not repairing the lines, investing in infrastructure and doing preventative maintenance to avoid interrupting the power and lives of their customers.

Power companies are monopolies and they are regulated by the PUC, which will not allow a competing company in the same area — which could ensure that the utilities would spend the needed money to build and maintain the infrastructure required to deliver the power, under any circumstances. Their rates are approved by the PUC and they are guaranteed a profit.

We also understand that the utilities want to prevent fire damage so as to not be held liable for it.

SCE must remember that it is a monopoly, and they are in business to provide electricity to people. Their customers can’t go to another electricity provider. Therefore, they have a duty to provide the electricity without “decided interruptions.” Their monopoly status puts a burden on these power companies to invest in infrastructure, build the needed equipment and do the maintenance to make sure they are up to the challenge of … well, weather.

Just deciding to turn off a customer’s power with virtually no warning is unacceptable and you can be guaranteed that the power is not voluntarily turned off at the homes of Southern California Edison’s executives.

It’s up to the executives of these power companies to plan ahead and spend the necessary money to keep the lights on —without interruption. 

That way, everyone will be able to read “The Night before Christmas” and not live it.

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