- Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Thomas Kuhn said the industry group is taking on the challenge posed by wildfires through a new task force of utility executives set up in the last year.
- The task force will be looking at regulation- and technology-based solutions for wildfire mitigation and prevention, among other objectives.
- "Regulations that prohibit you from clearing vegetation that may, you know, spark wildfires" need to be addressed, Kuhn said.
Investor-owned utilities in California are facing increased pressure from the damage and liabilities related to longer and more serious fire seasons. Due to the increasing vulnerability of utilities in the state, EEI, which has focused on a variety of natural disasters, formed a more specific program.
"Seeing the situation out in California, EEI is working strongly to set up a wildfire practice with a CEO task force," Kuhn said Thursday at the State of the Energy Industry Forum, hosted by the U.S. Energy Association.
"This task force is still in its infancy, but will be made up of CEOs who have interest in the range of wildfire-related issues," Brian Reill, a spokesperson for EEI, said via e-mail.
Based on technological advancements, the group is trying to update the system using cameras or sensors to detect fire hazards and activities, Kuhn said. The task force is also working "to get greater rights of way to clear greater vegetation where we can," he said.
Fire prevention and wildfire legislation will take priority for the California legislature during the 2019 session in the wake of the most deadly fire in the state's history. At the end of the 2018 session, state legislators passed a bill proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown that addressed, in part, fuel loading and vegetation management to prevent fires from spreading quickly.
Pacific Gas & Electric is preparing to file for bankruptcy as liability costs mount from the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons. The utility launched a wildfire safety program last March, which is being expanded, to enhance vegetation efforts and real-time monitoring.