Pacific Gas and Electric Co.Utility reaches out to the public about power shutoffs
- Jul 10, 2020 8:15 am GMT
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RED BLUFF >> Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is looking to limit the impact of Public Safety Power Shutoffs on customers and shorten the amount of time people are without power after high fire risk weather has occurred, according to presenters during a webinar hosted Wednesday evening for Tehama, Shasta and Glenn counties.
The company has nearly doubled its fleet of helicopters with 65 planned for inspections in 2020 and added infrared technology to allow nighttime inspections not possible in the past.
"We understand the importance of keeping the lights on, especially with many staying at home," said Customer Service Experience Manager Vanessa Bryan. "We are doing everything we can with preparation for COVID-19 and wildfires, but the overriding goal is public safety.
Webinars are scheduled to share information on shutoff plans and give the opportunity for customers to ask questions and provide feedback.
Bryan was joined by Senior Manager of the Humboldt and North Valley Divisions Carl Schoenhofer, and Jeff Lee and Mike Weaver, who are public safety specialists with PG&E.
Schoenhofer spoke about new technology, an enhanced vegetation management program and a system to determine where power would be shut off.
"We've looked at how to make future PSPS (events) a smaller size, shorter duration and smarter for customers," Schoenhofer said.
Even when a customer may not be experiencing severe weather, they may be in an area that is serviced by lines experiencing high winds, Schoenhofer said. It's possible that one home on a street could lose power, but a neighbor might not because they are served power from different regions.
Shutoffs can be prompted by red flag conditions, winds above 25 mph or with gusts above 45 mph and the availability of dry fuel in an area or the moisture content of live vegetation in an area near power lines, Schoenhofer said.
In 2019, Tehama County had four power shutoffs, while Shasta and Glenn counties each had three. Based on data from the past three decades, the counties were anticipating one event per year.
"We continue to refine weather models to get more accurate info and pinpoint severe weather " Schoenhofer said. "The goal is to reduce the number affected by one-third compared to last year. To restore power twice as fast after the severe weather event has passed. We want to have better information and resources before, during and after the PSPS."
The company is installing microgrids to help keep hospitals, emergency services, gas stations and markets powered. For Tehama County, microgrids will be installed at the Rawson Road, Tyler Road, Gerber, Los Molinos, Vina and Corning substations. This will primarily cover the Interstate 5 and State Route 99 corridor, Bryan said. Cottonwood will not have a microgrid and Lake California is ineligible due to being in a high fire risk area.
The company will install 600 new sectionalizing devices to keep lights. Tehama County is getting three devices, Glenn is getting one and there are 15
planned for Shasta County.
Work is being done to reduce fire risk by adding 400 new weather stations for a total of 1,300. The new stations, one every 20 circuit miles in high fire threat areas, should be completed by 2022, Lee said. Data collected will be available to agencies and the public through the PG&E website. Tehama County has 18 weather stations and five that are remotely automated.
Bandwidth has been increased for the company's website and more accurate and timely communications as well as coordination with local providers, Schoenhofer said.
PG&E has focused on making it easier, through work with community organizations, to support medical baseline customers who need power for medical equipment and increasing bandwidth on its website. The company will be providing notice two days before a PSPS event, one day ahead and again just prior to a shutoff for customers signed up for alerts.
For 2020, there will be the addition of an estimated window of time for each shut off and restoration and notifications will be available by phone, text or email.
Community Resource Centers, including the Los Molinos and Red Bluff veterans halls, will be set up. If physical distancing is still in place due to COVID-19, mobile and pop up sites will be used for resource centers with hours posted at pge.com/pspsupdates.
Questions were raised about the protocol for shutting off power in the event of a wildfire.
The overhead line threatened or damaged by fire is shut off at the request of the incident command for whichever agency has jurisdiction, Weaver said. The shutoff may impact many outside of the fire imprint and restoration will be done, both in and outside the fire imprint, with approval from the agency of jurisdiction.
Those wishing to get alerts can visit pge.com/mywildfirealert or call 1(866) 743-6589 to update their contact info. Anyone whose utilities are included in rent can sign up at pge.com/pspszipcodealert.
The slides from the presentation, a recording and a transcript will be available in one to two weeks at pge.com. The public is encouraged to visit the website for tips in preparing for extreme weather or possible outages.
Contact reporter Julie Zeeb at 530-737-5053.