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Mayor Liccardo Proposes Slate of Local Energy Grid Resiliency Measures, Calls for City to Explore Forming Public Utility

After PG&E blackouts left nearly 60,000 San Joséans in the dark, the Mayor of Bay Area’s largest city is calling for city to push local solutions to energy grid resiliency.

Post Date:10/18/2019

San José, Calif. – After Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) blackouts last week left thousands of San Joséans without power, Mayor Sam Liccardo has released a memorandum calling for the City to explore new means to build energy resiliency and reduce the City’s dependence on PG&E.

“A resilient future for California’s electricity is distributed and local. San José can provide solutions to avert a dystopian future of unpredictable blackouts,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “By reducing regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles to microgrid development in local communities, and by exploring options for local control over distribution, we can more sustainably, efficiently, and reliably provide electricity to our community.”

Mayor Liccardo’s memorandum proposes a slate of local initiatives the City could take to protect residents from and during unpredictable blackouts, explore options to create a municipal local electrical utility in San José, and reimburse taxpayers for blackout-related costs, by:

  • Installing micro-grid systems, and depending on the results of polling and feasibility studies, exploring acquiring PG&E infrastructure;
  • Exploring bond financing opportunities to develop renewable energy storage and generation facilities for future PG&E blackouts;
  • Exploring opportunities to support low-income resident purchases of solar panels and storage;
  • Identifying State or PG&E funding sources to reimburse San José taxpayers for the more than $500,000 cost incurred by the City as a result of PG&E power blackouts;
  • Providing an estimate of losses incurred by San José residents and business as a result of the PSPS, and means for families to recover those losses, and;
  • Identifying if recorded wind speeds, humidity, and temperature in impacted San José neighborhoods actually met PG&E’s agreed-upon thresholds required to cut power during last week’s blackout.

To enable San José to properly protect residents during power outages, Mayor Liccardo is urging a city-driven advocacy effort with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the State legislature to 1) impose new transparency, communication, and collaboration requirements on the investor-owned utility during a planned blackout, and 2) eliminate State and PG&E-imposed barriers to local grid resiliency measures.

“Local communities can provide solutions—if they’re allowed to,” continued Mayor Liccardo. “Because San José anticipated PG&E’s limitations, it created a map-based data platform to enable multi-agency access for emergency personnel and launched an app to crowd-source information from residents to provide a more accurate real-time assessment of blackouts and impacts.”

During PSPS events, Mayor Liccardo is urging the State to require PG&E to provide its complete data to local emergency operations staff to provide for immediate and targeted response from local agencies

“Additionally, properly trained City and County staff can also take geotagged photos of power lines to accelerate inspections necessary to help restore power once shut-off—as we offered PG&E last week—but only if the state requires PG&E to work with us,” concluded the Mayor.

The San José Rules and Open Government Committee will consider advancing the Mayor’s proposal to the City Council next Wednesday, October 23. Read the Mayor’s memorandum in full.

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Media Contact:

Chloe Meyere, Office of Mayor Liccardo; 408-535-4833 or chloe.meyere@sanjoseca.gov

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