The nation’s largest utility has long vowed to change its reckless ways, but year after year there’s more death and destruction from Northern California wildfires sparked by Pacific Gas & Electric’s equipment.
CEO Patricia “Patti” Poppe, who took over in January as the company’s fifth leader in less than three years, has pledged to shareholders that the future will get “easier” and “brighter.” That vow will be put to the test as California sinks deeper into drought and fire danger increases.
It’s been a year since the utility emerged from one of the most complex bankruptcy cases in U.S. history, an act driven by a succession of harrowing wildfires ignited by its long-neglected electrical grid. The bankruptcy, PG&E’s second in less than 20 years, was billed as an opportunity to finally hit the reset button for a utility that provides power to 16 million people – more than the population of all but a handful of states.
So far, however, it has looked more like a reminder of problems that have resulted in tragedy over the past six years, including a 2018 wildfire that killed 85 people and largely destroyed the town of Paradise, about 145 miles northeast of San Francisco. It was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.