Podcast / Audio

Episode #4: ‘California, Wildfires, and PG&E: The Neverending Utility Story’ with John Benson - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast]

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The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ features conversations with thought leaders in the utility sector. Each two weeks we’ll connect with an Energy Central Power Industry Network...

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  • 82 items added with 155,586 views
  • Jan 14, 2020

In the fourth episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast, we tackle one of the most high profile and complex issues facing the utility sector today, and that’s the ongoing situation in California as PG&E, the state and local governments, and residents continue to deal with the aftermath of raging wildfires in 2017 and 2018. As this situation continues to evolve with new twists and turns, the Energy Central community has been able to rely on John Benson, California resident and veteran of the energy industry, to keep them apprised of the latest developments and their implications. 

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John’s utility sector career has taken him all over the spectrum, and today he finds himself as senior consultant for Microgrid Labs where he develops, plans, and designs microgrid projects, but he also spends much of his time researching and analyzing the energy sector and disseminating his findings and insights into white paper resources for Energy Central. Because he makes his home in the Golden State and because the topic is unavoidable for anyone whose work ties into the grid, John finds himself coming back to the PG&E situation time and again. As such, we figured it was well past time to have John as a guest on the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast so we could dive in even further. 

Key Links:

“California v. PG&E”: https://www.energycentral.com/c/pip/california-v-pge

“New / Old Municipal Utility”: https://www.energycentral.com/c/pip/new-old-major-municipal-utility 

“California Wildfires, Utilities and Grid Resiliency”: https://www.energycentral.com/c/pip/california-wildfires-utilities-and-grid-resilience

“California Wildfires, Utilities and Grid Resilience - Part 2”: https://www.energycentral.com/c/pip/california-wildfires-utilities-and-grid-resiliency-part-2



If you want to be a guest on a future episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast, let us know! We’ll be pulling guests from our community members who submit engaging content that gets our community talking, and perhaps that next guest will be you! Likewise, if you see an article submitted by a fellow Energy Central community member that you’d like to see broken down in more detail in a conversation, feel free to send us a note to nominate them.  For more information, contact us at community@energycentral.com. Podcast interviews are free for Expert Members and professionals who work for a utility.  We have package offers available for solution providers and vendors. 

The Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast is hosted by Jason Price, Community Ambassador of Energy Central. Jason is a recent NYSERDA scholar and NYU Clean Tech diploma recipient, having worked extensively in a multi-owner, utility-scale microgrid business model. Jason is joined in the podcast booth by the producer of the podcast, Matt Chester, who is also the Community Manager of Energy Central and energy analyst/independent consultant in energy policy, markets, and technology.  

Happy listening, and stay tuned for episode #5 coming next week! Like what you hear, have a suggestion for future episodes, or a question for our guest? Leave a note in the comments below.

All new episodes of the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast will be posted to the relevant Energy Central community group, but you can also subscribe to the podcast at all the major podcast outlets, including:

Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/energycentral

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Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Apr 24, 2020

Thanks very much to Matt Chester, Jason Price and to John Benson for a great overview of the issues surrounding energy in northern California,  PGE and AB-1054.  Most was new to me.

I expected complexity and I was not disappointed. There are lots of competing interests and, I think, a lot of honest effort to sort them out in an equitable way.  It will be both interesting and crucial to follow this issue as climate change progresses and politics change. However, in the absence of global, or even national, action on climate change, it is hard to imagine how the necessary adjustments can be made to get ahead of the curve in order to avoid future catastrophic fire events. 

It is a bit strange to hear that the Republican party barely exists in California.  It is stunning how that has come about, though it may not last so very long.  I´m not sure if California is a harbinger of what´s coming in the rest of the country, a relic or re-incarnation of FDR progressivism, or just an outlier. 



Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 24, 2020

I´m not sure if California is a harbinger of what´s coming in the rest of the country, a relic or re-incarnation of FDR progressivism, or just an outlier. 

I'm not from California, so perhaps this is a better question for John to answer-- but I'll note that I don't think most people really see California as a harbinger of what's coming in the rest of the country, but rather as almost it's own entity that will operate in its own way (similar to how, say, Texas operates in the same way but on the opposite end of the political spectrum). 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Apr 24, 2020

Thanks for the kind words, Mark.

This agreement appears to be coming together. I just posted a 2-part series on the apparent elements. This is linked below.



Regarding the Republican Party, I have been a Republican for most of my life, Also if you will remember Ronald Regan and our Governator were Republicans. 10 years ago I changed my affiliation to Democrat as did many other Californians. There were a number of reasons for me, but I would guess for most Californians it was the Republicans drifting away from having a strong environmental stance (both of the above former Republican Governors did/do), and tuning into climate change deniers.



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