Why don’t we make utilities repay us for blackouts?

Patrons dine at Daughter Thai Kitchen in the Montclair District of Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, during a short-lived PG&E blackout reprieve. Photo by Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group

The idea: It happened in 2019 and it could happen again. Sensing no political downside, Newsom demanded PG&E offer rebates — $100 to residential customers and $250 to small businesses — to compensate people for a widespread public safety power shutdown on Oct. 9, 2019. As a result, the company agreed to a one-time reimbursement.

The pros: Other businesses offer your money back if customers don’t get service. Californians use less electricity than customers in other states, on average, but their rates are relatively high. And there’s no harm for politicians in demanding refunds from, say, a company like PG&E, which is both unpopular and bankrupt.

The cons: PG&E’s late 2019 blackouts hit some 2 million households while the utility remained in bankruptcy and power shutoffs have since become commonplace during dry, windy conditions. In any case, any rebate would be a mere gesture compared to what Californians are about to pay for electricity. So far, the average PG&E customer stands to pay an extra $30 a month even before all the details of bankruptcy are worked out.

The odds: Five in 10 of some policy going forward. Newsom scored one clawback, but customers are getting used to blackouts, which might mean less outrage.