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PG&E Starts Second Round of Power Shutoffs as Blackout Spreads

David R. Baker, Mark Chediak and Jeffrey Taylor

(Bloomberg) -- PG&E Corp., the California utility giant forced into bankruptcy by devastating wildfires, is cutting power to more homes and businesses in the second phase of its biggest-ever intentional blackout designed to keep power lines from sparking more blazes.

The company told reporters late Wednesday that it has begun shutting power in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The outages are expected to spread to Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere as dry winds leave the region at high risk of fire. Utilities in the Los Angeles and San Diego area are also warning of service cuts. More than 3 million people may be eventually affected, based on city estimates and the average household size. The economic impact may reach $2.6 billion.

Never before have California utilities intentionally cut power to so many people for their own safety -- and never has a shutoff affected such major metropolitan areas. The city of San Francisco and Silicon Valley are expected to be spared. The undertaking is key to fairly new strategy by PG&E for preventing power lines from sparking another deadly -- and costly -- conflagration.

“This is unprecedented in terms of what all of us are facing as a community,” PG&E Vice President Sumeet Singh said at a media briefing Tuesday night. “We are doing everything we can to minimize the impact on our customers’ lives.”

--With assistance from Nic Querolo.

To contact the reporters on this story: David R. Baker in San Francisco at dbaker116@bloomberg.net;Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.net;Jeffrey Taylor in San Francisco at jtaylor48@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, Joe Ryan

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