UC Berkeley gets power back, ending shutoff in Berkeley

UC Berkeley’s campus was eerily quiet Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week with classes canceled for the shutoff. The university got back power Friday afternoon. Photo: Scott Saul

The UC Berkeley campus, the last area in the city to remain affected by the PG&E shutoff, has its power back.

The university announced the full restoration shortly before 2 p.m. Friday, the third day of canceled classes and campus closures. PG&E’s outage map showed that virtually all of the rest of Berkeley was restored by that time. Aside from the campus, only parts of the Berkeley Hills and North Berkeley were affected by the shutoff that reached the city late Wednesday night.

“Classes will remain canceled today but normal research activities may resume and special events may take place this afternoon and evening as planned,” UC Berkeley said in a news release. “The campus is ready for full normal weekend operations for Saturday and Sunday. Normal weekday operations will start on Monday.”

Beginning early in the morning, UC Berkeley facilities employees and police worked their way through the campus to safely turn back on all power sources and restore keycard access to buildings, the release said.


Leading up to the shutoff, science professors complained that multiple campus laboratories and research facilities don’t have backup power sources, despite housing precious and expensive experiments that require refrigeration. Some trucked 80 freezers containing samples across the bay to UCSF.

The uncertainty of when the shutoff would end was also felt acutely at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. Sherry Wasserman, co-founder of Another Planet Entertainment, which books shows for the venue, told Berkeleyside Friday morning that nobody knew whether that night’s Bastille concert would have to be canceled. Now the 8 p.m. show can take place.

At noon, PG&E said 86% of the affected areas in Alameda County had been restored.

At a press conference Thursday evening, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson told reporters he has “no idea” how often these “public safety power shutoffs” will occur from now on.

The utility maintains that the shutoff was a critical safety measure, as winds reached a dangerous 45-50 miles per hour in many affected areas and a peak of 77 miles per hour in one area. The weather could have damaged power lines and started wildfires like the destructive blazes started by PG&E equipment last year.

But customers and elected officials alike have accused the utility of chronically neglecting infrastructure maintenance and now, by turning off power at short notice, inconveniencing or threatening the safety of hundreds of thousands of customers in order to avoid liability.

Johnson and colleagues told reporters they failed their customers and take full responsibility for major communication and errors and mistakes in rolling out the shutoff, an unprecedented effort to turn off power for more than 30 counties across Northern California.