Power shutdowns have dire consequences on California businesses. Lawmakers should help out, not make it worse

Feb 26, 2020 | Community

By Lance Hastings and Jot Condie | Special to CalMatters

A three-day planned power shutdown this past fall was too much for owner Simon Olney of Ol’ Republic Roadhouse, a popular Nevada City restaurant.

He left customers a note on the door: “The PG&E outages have hit us very hard and compounded an already challenging year, in particular the week in mid-October when we had no generator support and suffered a total loss of revenue and food product…”

News reports said the shutdown cost the owner $70,000 including loss of sales and spoiled food, and 25 employees were let go.

This story is unfortunately not unique. Businesses large and small experienced losses that impacted their employees and their communities.

As legislators examine long-term solutions to wildfires and the electricity grid, we encourage a collaborative approach that examines California’s laws and regulations.

Businesses struggled to prepare for potential power shut offs. A warning of a potential shutoff forces many businesses to scramble.

California’s manufacturers often must start the process of shutting down equipment regardless of whether the shutoff actually occurs. There are safety procedures in place, and the warning costs these employers significant losses. These businesses have few options and the costs are significant.

While legislators debate long-term approaches that support safe and reliable power for all, policymakers must not make it more difficult to get reliable power.

For example, some legislators have advocated for electric-only power sources for businesses and residents, despite its fragility and vulnerability to planned power shutoffs. If electricity is turned off, businesses will need another source of power.

We need to stop moving in the direction that forces us all to rely on our current broken electric grid and allow for diversification of energy sources. This means re-evaluating regulations that may prevent a business from preparing for expected public safety power shutdowns, so we are not left in the dark.

We believe there should be exemptions for diesel generators to be used by commercial and industrial businesses during shutdowns. We also urge lawmakers to examine barriers that prevent onsite generation opportunities that may help provide more power reliability.

We cannot repeat the devastation of 2019. We must allow businesses and residents to have choices for reliable energy today, while policymakers work to pass a long-term solution that strengthens our grid to be reliable, safe and affordable for all.

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Lance Hastings is president of California Manufacturers & Technology Association, lhastings@cmta.net. Jot Condie is president and chief executive officer of California Restaurant Association, jcondie@calrest.org. They wrote this commentary for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.

The author wrote this for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.

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