September 7, 2022

“Disasters Happen As A Result Of Tiny Decisions” Featuring Katherine Blunt, Reporter and Author of “California Burning”

We hope you had a safe and restful Labor Day weekend. For this week's COBT, we had the pleasure of hosting Katherine Blunt, Renewables and Utilities Reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Author of recently-released "California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric and What it Means for America’s Power Grid," published just last week. Katherine was quickly thrown into covering the PG&E story in 2018 as the Camp Fire erupted three days after she started. Since then, she has investigated PG&E's complete history to understand all the contributing factors to that tragic and devastating fire. It's a complicated story with serious consequences and her book is a straightforward and insightful examination of not only the fire, but America's power history. Her well-received new book also contains many implications for utilities across the country.

In our discussion, we touch on key themes in "California Burning" including the formation of monopoly companies supplying power to California in the early 1900s, the lack of maintenance on nearly 100-year-old equipment which was the catalyst to the fire, the people and infrastructure involved in California's electric power system, PG&E's bankruptcy and restructuring program, the negotiated settlement for fire victims, public perceptions of PG&E, reactions to the book, the pressures utilities face to keep expenses low, PG&E's nuclear asset Diablo Canyon, and more. PG&E has declared the book will be required reading for employees, a promising declaration as they work to bury ten thousand miles of distribution lines and mitigate fire risk for the future. The book is very well written, Katherine was a fantastic guest, and we all feel much more informed. Thank you, Katherine!

The Veriten team quickly hit a few key points to start the show: Mike Bradley reported live from the Barclay's CEO Energy-Power Conference in New York and touched on early conference themes, market volatility, recent deal activity and news, and a recent California law on EV production and implications on power generation. Colin Fenton flagged lithium prices, Russian gas flows into Europe, Iranian crude oil exports, and prepared us for the discussion with Katherine looking at California-Oregon border and Palo Verde power prices.

As always, thank you for your support and friendship!

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Featured guest on this show include: