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What are the Different Types of Power Outages?

A PSPS, or Public Safety Power Shutoff, is a planned power outage that electric utility companies use to prevent wildfires. During a PSPS, PG&E deliberately turns off the power. This often occurs during very windy, hot, and dry weather when the risk of fires is high. A PSPS helps prevent power lines from accidentally starting wildfires. Your electricity service with MCE still uses PG&E’s lines, which are subject to potential PSPS events.

A Power Outage is when the electricity unexpectedly turns off for various reasons. These reasons include storms, earthquakes, or technical issues.

A Rotating Outage (sometimes called a rolling outage) is caused when electric demand exceeds the available energy, and the California Independent System Operator (ISO)  determines that reductions are necessary to protect the electric grid. The ISO notifies the electric utility companies and requires them to cut electricity use. The Rotating Outage Program, which was established by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), is a way to systematically and fairly address the need for forced reductions in electricity use by cutting power to customers when the electrical system is close to collapse. Customers will typically have little or no advanced notice. Participating in flex alerts, increasing your energy efficiency, and decreasing your energy usage can help reduce the risk of rotating outages.

The difference between these types of outages is that power outages aren’t planned, and PSPS events and rotating outages are planned. All outages can be inconvenient and potentially dangerous if you’re not adequately prepared. Please use this page as a resource to prepare for expected and unexpected outages by making your home more power resilient. 

Power Outage Preparedness

Our experts lead you through simple DIY tips, no matter what your level of expertise may be, to create a home that is resilient to power outages. Learn these easy energy efficiency hacks to save energy and money on your monthly bill.

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Power outage preparedness resources

  • PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff Webpage: Click the button at the top of PG&E’s PSPS webpage to verify that your contact information is current. PG&E will use this information to notify you of any upcoming PSPS events in your area.
  • PG&E’s PSPS Event Details: Up-to-date information from PG&E about upcoming and current PSPS events and other outages, and information about Community Resource Centers in areas affected by a shutoff
  • CPUC’s High Fire-Threat District Map: Find out if you are located in an area at extreme (Tier 3) or elevated (Tier 2) risk for wildfire. This map identifies areas that have the highest likelihood of a wildfire affecting people and property and where additional action may be necessary to reduce wildfire risk.

Power Outage Preparedness FAQ

MCE provides electricity generation services to our customers in partnership with PG&E. Your electricity service with MCE still uses PG&E’s lines, which are subject to potential PSPS events. MCE is not directly involved in transmission or distribution of electricity or evaluating if conditions meet the criteria for a PSPS event.
If a PSPS event is called in your area, your home with solar power will still experience an outage unless you have battery storage or another type of backup power.
If you have solar and battery power at your home, you will be able to become an “island” during a PSPS event. This means your solar panels will be able to charge your battery, which can power part or all of your home, depending on the size of your system. How long you will be able to maintain power during an outage will depend on the size of your solar system, your battery storage capacity, and your electricity consumption. If your system is not large enough to support your full home, consider powering your medical devices, refrigerator, and charging devices first.
Portable battery storage can be a good alternative to gasoline-powered generators for providing small amounts of necessary power during a PSPS event. Gas-powered generators are noisy and cannot be operated inside because they produce carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that can cause illness and death. Batteries are quiet and don’t produce air pollution, which makes them safe to operate inside your home and don’t require the purchase and storage of gasoline, which can pose a fire risk.

Visit PG&E’s website and ensure that your contact information is up to date. PG&E will notify you via your preferred contact method before a planned PSPS outage event.

There is no set time for a PSPS event — it varies based on the prevailing conditions. It is also possible to experience back-to-back outages, where power may be briefly restored before being turned off again due to another event. PG&E recommends preparing for outages lasting up to 7 days.

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers offers PSPS resources to qualifying customers who may need help evacuating in the event of a power shutoff.

Make sure you have an emergency plan in place. Prepare for any medical needs, build or restock an emergency kit with nonperishable food items, water, batteries, and a first aid kit, and fully charge your electronic devices. You can see a full list of recommendations at prepareforpowerdown.com.

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