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PG&E Warns Of New Power Shut-Offs In Bay Area

Energy company PG&E has begun another round of notifying customers of potential power shut-offs in the Bay Area, the beleaguered utility provider said late Monday.

The company said it has begun sending 48-hour notices to more than 200,000 customers expected to be affected by dangerous fire conditions in a 16-county area of Northern California, including parts of the North Bay and San Mateo County. You can see a full list of affected counties here.

At a press conference Monday evening, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson sought to allay concerns about the effect the shut-offs might have on the region.

"More and more of our service area is considered by the state to be of high fire risk. Three times more of our service area is at high risk of fire than was the case seven years ago, about 15% in 2012, more than 50% today," Johnson said. "We're really dealing with a new reality here ... [shut-offs] are not a tool that we want to use and certainly not a tool we like to use."

PG&E is enacting another round of shut-offs.

PG&E's massive shut-off earlier this month affected more than 800,000 customers in 34 counties in the northern part of the state, some of whom lost power for several days. The economic effects of that shutdown have been estimated to be in the billions of dollars. Bisnow did its own cost analysis at the time.

"I went back and looked very hard at if we turned off power to too broad an area [two weeks ago]," Johnson said Monday. "I have to say we got that right. If you look at where the damage occurred on the system, it's exactly in the areas where we turned off power .. We might have turned it off a little quicker than we needed to."

"I do think you'll see fewer every year, and they'll be narrower in scope. But at the same time we're reducing our element of risk, the fire risk is increasing."

Commercial real estate sources said power shut-offs often mean that security functions like alarm systems and automatic entryways were compromised and had to be replaced by manual operation.

Multifamily was hit especially hard during that round of shut-offs, with elevators, lighting, heating and anything else run on electricity affected for the duration of the power outage. Users said they were turning to generators and other power sources for short-term needs.

"For our customers' planning purposes, we should just prepare for outages that could last up to 48 hours," Johnson said.

"We're getting a little practice at this. I'm not happy about that, but we have learned lessons every time we have done the restoration."

PG&E said a final decision on shut-offs will be made by Wednesday midday.

This is a breaking news story.