- Pacific Gas and Electric this week announced a comprehensive Community Wildfire Safety Program, aimed at preventing wildfires, reducing damage to the grid when they do occur, and maintaining resilience during disasters.
- PG&E is being investigated, along with Southern California Edison, by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), for what role if any its equipment played in the deadly fires that swept through California last fall. PG&E's liability could be significant should it be found responsible, with some estimates ranging from $10 billion to $12 billion.
- In response to the series of fires, the state issued a plan earlier this month to "protect all Californians from the threat of natural disasters and climate change" that included updates to liability rules and regulations for utility services.
Both PG&E and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) point to climate change as the primary cause of last year's devastation wildfire season.
The utility, in a statement yesterday, called wildfires and extreme weather a "climate-driven challenge." And the plan backed by Brown calls for protecting "all Californians from the threat of natural disasters and climate change."
PG&E may yet be found to have some role in the fires, though no call has been made. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, however, many state officials are acting as though fire officials have already laid blame on the utility. The utility has paused its dividend program, legislators have held hearings into whether utilities have done enough to address the threats, and several lawsuits name PG&E.
The plan unveiled by PG&E this week includes three areas of focus, including: wildfire prevention and response; new safety measures and grid hardening efforts.
Preventative measures would include monitoring wildfire risks and coordinating response efforts with first responders and adding to the utility's firefighting resources. Of note: PG&E is also planning to expand its weather forecasting and modeling "by installing a network of PG&E-owned and operated weather stations across the service area."
New safety measures include new standards to keep trees away from power lines, refining protocols for proactively turning off electric power lines, and expanding PG&E's practice of disabling line reclosers and circuit breakers in high fire-risk areas during fire season. The utility's grid hardening efforts mirror broader modernization efforts, and include microgrids that would maintain power to community facilities in the event of a disaster.