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California Will Use Diesel This Summer to Help Keep Lights On


Despite environmental concerns, California will allow PG&E Corp. to use diesel-powered mobile generators to keep some electricity flowing when the utility proactively cuts power to prevent live wires from sparking fires in high wind.

A blackout in Calistoga, California, in October 2019.

State regulators signed off Thursday on PG&E’s plan to use about 450 megawatts of diesel generation to power homes, businesses, hospitals and other critical facilities as part of the utility’s effort to reduce disruptions during the shutoffs.

Last fall, regulators criticized PG&E for intentionally blacking out millions of customers to prevent power lines from sparking fires during dry, windy conditions.

Some clean-energy groups opposed the company’s request to use diesel generators given California’s goal to wean itself off fossil-fuels by 2045. The California Public Utilities Commission said it was only permitting the practice this year and directed PG&E to look for cleaner alternatives starting in 2021.

PG&E said it considered more environmentally-friendly options but they proved too costly or impractical to deploy in time this year. The company said its mobile generators can use fuel made from vegetable oil and that it will continue to explore cleaner alternatives for the coming years.

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