File photo of PG&E’s Humboldt Bay Generating Station by Andrew Goff.


PREVIOUSLY: PG&E’s Electricity Transmission Limits Threaten to Throttle Development Throughout Southern Humboldt, Blindsiding Local Officials


In reporting yesterday’s story about the recent revelation that PG&E has all but reached the limits of its capacity to transmit electricity to new projects across southern Humboldt County, the Outpost asked the utility a series of questions.

Among them: Why didn’t PG&E anticipate these issues and address them earlier? When did PG&E become aware of the capacity issues, and why weren’t local officials warned earlier? Does PG&E blame cannabis projects for the situation?

PG&E did not respond before our story deadline, but spokesperson Deanna Contreras emailed a statement this morning. It addresses some of the questions we’d asked, but not all. And it raises others.

For example, while the statement below says short-term capacity work will allow the new Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville to move forward, it does not offer a timeline for other improvement, including a line reconductoring project and substation upgrades to increase capacity in Fortuna, Rio Dell and Garberville.

We have requested more information, including details about how much capacity will be added via the reconductoring project and upgrades mentioned in the statement along with the timeline for that work. We’ll let you know if and when we hear back.

Here’s the statement from PG&E:

PG&E’s grid planning process carefully considers the energy needs of the 16 million customers we serve in Northern and Central California, including our hometowns in the North Coast. As part of our Distribution Planning Process, we annually forecast load growth to assess needs on the electric distribution system and create plans and projects to address them. Similarly, the CAISO’s annual Transmission Planning Process forecasts load growth on the electric transmission system. Examples of projects created to address needs in this vital part of our service area include the Humboldt Bay Power Plant which opened in 2010 specifically to support local capacity needs, and the more recent Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid, which provides grid resiliency and additional local generation.

Our multi-year grid plan is addressing needs in this area through projects already in progress, and others planned over the next few years. These include a line reconductoring project and upgrades to the Rio Dell substation to increase capacity in Fortuna and Rio Dell; transmission and distribution system line reconductoring, and upgrades at the Garberville substation, to increase capacity for serving the Garberville area.

While some of this work is longer-term, in the short-term our capacity work planned through next year will support smaller energy load applications, such as the new Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville, to move forward.

Building new transmission facilities requires engagement from multiple parties, including our customers, landowners, environmental regulators, and the CAISO.  We are committed to working creatively and collaboratively to develop standard and creative solutions to meet our customers’ needs.

It is our privilege and our obligation to serve all our customers.  To do that, we generally follow a first-in, first-out approach to grid project planning, while prioritizing the most important projects in each area, including our North Coast region. It’s critical to maintain open two-way communication with our customers and communities at the earliest indication of potential growth projects. Our regional service model, launched in 2021, is designed to facilitate that communication. We acknowledge that past projects have experienced delays, and we are dedicated to continuous improvement so that we are doing the right work the right way to support local economic growth and vitality.