It’s looking like Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is now responsible not only for igniting the Kincade Fire which has burned 66,000 acres in Sonoma County, California and now threatens more than 80,000 structures, but also two more fires in California over the past couple of days.

It has become fairly obvious that PG&E’s “smart” grid program–which includes millions of “smart” meters on homes and businesses, as well as transmitters and other electronics–has greatly increased the risks associated with grid electricity. As the climate crisis- (brought to you in part by decades of PG&E fossil fuel burning) provides the tinder dry fuels and extreme weather, the added complexity and ignition risk of smart grid communications infrastructure provides the spark, California communities are asking how we got into this perfect storm.

The answer is that regulators at the (governor appointed) CPUC and state legislature have consistently failed to adequately protect the public, even though evidence pointing to the need for a wholesale recall of this technology has been documented for many years. Nina Beety of Monterey, CA based has painstakingly documented the ignition risks of smart meters and the smart grid, and her reports are available for download on her website. After reading this report, it is clear that no agency truly concerned about public safety could allow this system to persist.

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Not only do smart meters cause deadly fires on their own, they are also inherently ill-equipped to safely handle electrical surges, as we documented when hundreds of meters exploded in Capitola and Stockton, California in 2015. PG&E’s replacement of analogs with smart meters starting in 2009 has not represented “progress” as the company claims, but a dangerous miscalculation that has wasted billions and led to unnecessary deaths and injuries.

Communities are now adding up the cost of allowing PG&E to milk Californians of billions of dollars in ratepayer fees, while not only neglecting (but actively endangering) public safety. Urgent questions are being asked about what this means for the future in light of a quickly worsening climate crisis.

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The solution must start immediately:

• Leave all remaining fossil fuels safely in the ground.

• Require a full safety recall of smart meters and smart grid equipment- re-installing safer analog meters and removing smart grid electronics from power poles.

• Declare a public safety emergency and seize control of PG&E. Hold white collar criminals individually accountable.

• Since the possibility of a safe, functional electric grid in areas prone to explosive wildfire seems no longer an option, explore a phased retirement of the obsolete electrical grid, in favor of locally controlled micro-grids run on renewable energy. Compared to other options such as undergrounding of utility lines, this option would likely be less expensive in the long term.

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We hope everyone stays safe out there, and when this crisis subsides, we need to have a serious conversation about the future of energy- how it is produced, how it is delivered, and how it is used. We can no longer continue to use the sky as our dumping ground, and we can no longer allow profit-obsessed corporations like PG&E to have power over our lives.