California

Lights are still on in Sacramento. Here’s why SMUD isn’t in PG&E’s shutoff predicament

While a significant number of Californians were forced into the dark by the Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s public safety shutoff this week, Sacramento’s lights stayed on.

But why?

While the grids are connected, “our part of the grid isn’t reliant on PG&E,” said Chris Capra, spokesman for Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, which provides power to the greater Sacramento region. “So we’re not affected at all by their public safety power shutoff.”

“We’re able to get power from other places even if we were impacted by, say, a transmission line was taken out of service because of some sort of wildfire or high winds, so we were in a good situation to start with,” he added.

SMUD’s service territory is mostly urban and covers 900 square miles, most of which is outside the high risk wildfire areas, Capra said.

The utility’s largest risk area is a small area in El Dorado County where transmission lines carry power into Folsom, but Capra said those transmission towers are rated for “pretty high winds” and haven’t experienced any problems during the wind event this week that prompted the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning.

Capra said SMUD has experienced a number of small outages in the last few days, but none of them were connected to PG&E’s public safety power shutoff. The most significant outage in SMUD’s service area was caused by a rodent, he said.

SMUD is among many municipal utilities and cooperatives in California that remain unaffected by the historic shutoff, which cut power to at least 1.5 million residents by Thursday. For example, 50 miles north of Sacramento, Gridley has its own utility district. Its power service remained intact through the week while nearby parts of Yuba City, Oroville and Chico went dark.

Roseville Electric Utility and other city-run providers, such as Alameda, also were able to dodge the intentional blackout.

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Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.
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