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Every year, much of the western United States is ravaged by ever more severe wildfires, caused in part by local decisions and in part by the local impacts of global climate change. Many of the most destructive wildfires in recent years have been caused by electric utilities, showing the urgency of addressing climate risk for these companies. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), California's largest investor-owned utility, dramatically illustrates the challenges we face and the enormous stakes in trying to keep critical systems safe, reliable and affordable while navigating the costs and risks involved.
In this mini conference, we will first explore how past events and decisions set the stage for the tragic loss of lives and property involving PG&E. How did PG&E come to be declared a “menace to California” by a federal judge in January 2022? We then address the organization and governance of energy provision in the US and ask how we should regulate firms like PG&E that provide critical public goods, whose business models are fundamentally challenged by climate change, and that are “too essential to fail.” How can we make sure the citizens of California are able to get mortgages and home insurance, buy clean energy at a reasonable price, and avoid losing their homes and clean air to utility-caused wildfires?
This event brings together reporters, an author of a recent book on PG&E, a community organizer who lost his house to a 2017 fire, former regulators, and experts in law, finance, insurance, and energy infrastructure to help unpack the issues so we can see the challenges as they are.
Anat Admati, The George G.C. Parker Professor of Finance and Economics; Faculty Director for Corporation and Society Initiative (CASI)
Michael Wara, Policy Director, Sustainability Accelerator, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability
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