News Briefs

April Power Outage Stokes Vulnerability Fears

Nearly 90,000 customers lost power for much of the day on April 21 after a fire in a PG&E substation. The affected customers were all on the Northside of the city, from the Financial District to the Presidio and even the Richmond District. With no electricity in offices and even BART and Muni services affected, many people were forced to head home from the offices and start their weekend early.

By the end of the day, all power had been restored, but the incident highlighted the fragility of the power supply for big cities. The San Francisco outage occurred on the same day as an outage in Manhattan as well as outages in Los Angeles International Airport and other areas of L.A. The same-day outages across three major U.S. cities led some to wonder about coordinated attacks, but the San Francisco Police Department downplayed such ideas, tweeting that it “understands concerns [regarding] coincidence of outages in other cities. PG&E identified that the #sfpoweroutage is due to equipment failure.” A January 2017 release of the U.S. Energy Department’s second Quadrennial Energy Review identified the electrical grid as a national security vulnerability.

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