In the wake of PG&E’s decision to cut power to over one million people in California last week, there has been a torrent of frustration, outrage, and suspicion—about who should be held accountable, what their motivations are, and whether there is a way to keep blackouts from becoming the new normal. California Gov. Gavin Newsom notably took an already damaged PG&E to task on Thursday, saying the utility company’s “greed and mismanagement over the course of decades” was to blame for the state’s aging and poorly maintained electric grid, not simply climate change. (Last year’s Camp Fire in Northern California, sparked by a PG&E power line, was the state’s deadliest on record, claiming 86 lives and the town of Paradise; the company has since filed for bankruptcy.) Then this week, state officials called for the company to issue customer rebates, which would cost it millions, and demanded PG&E executives report to an emergency regulatory meeting planned for Friday.
Beyond blame, the dark days have also set Californians searching for new solutions—from a heavier reliance on renewable energy sources to municipal power distribution to microgrids, or local community-operated energy grids that can operate and be controlled autonomously.