- California's investor-owned electric utilities this week filed wildfire mitigation plans with the California Public Utilities Commission.
- PG&E's new mitigation plan would expand its proactive shutoff policy, potentially impacting every customer in its service territory. Critics of the utility were quick to say the plan was ineffective and "necessitated by PG&E's repeated criminal behavior."
- More than half a dozen utilities filed mitigation plans, but all eyes are on Pacific Gas & Electric, which filed for bankruptcy after facing as much as $30 billion in potential wildfire liabilities. A federal judge recently ruled the utility's role in the state's wildfires constituted a violation of its probation related to the deadly San Bruno, California gas pipeline explosion in 2010.
No matter where you live on PG&E's system, you could find your electric service turned off due to the possibility of sparking a wildfire.
The utility made that clear in the wildfire mitigation plan it submitted Wednesday to state regulators. "Any of PG&E's more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off if their community relies upon a line that passes through a high fire-threat area," PG&E said.
While not all of PG&E's customers live in wildfire areas, the utility wants to expand its Public Safety Power Shutoff program to include all electric lines — both distribution and transmission — that pass through an area at risk of wildfire.
"We know how much our customers rely on electric service. Proactively turning off power is a highly complex issue with significant public safety risks on both sides — all of which need to be carefully considered and addressed," PG&E Electric Operations Senior Vice President Michael Lewis said in a statement.
PG&E said its proactive shutoff program will now include 25,200 distribution circuit miles, up from 7,100 last year. The program will also include about 5,500 circuit miles of transmission lines, including 500 kV, up from 373 circuit miles of transmission lines at 70 kV and below.
The plans "address the company's unique and diverse service area and provide our regulators, customers and communities with transparency of our unwavering efforts to help further reduce the risk of wildfire and improve public safety," said Sumeet Singh, vice president of the utility's Community Wildfire Safety Program, in a statement.
Critics of the utility were less impressed, however.
"[M]ass power shut offs are an emergency measure necessitated by PG&E's repeated criminal behavior," Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, told Utility Dive in an emailed statement. "A top drawer safety plan would not rely on mass shutoffs, which create other risks for customers."
PG&E officials say they understand the implications of mass shut-offs, but have little choice. "We will only turn off power for public safety and only as a last resort to keep our customers and communities safe," Lewis said.
The CPUC must now review and approve the plans. On Feb. 26 and 27, the commission will hold technical workshops to open the discussion.