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PG&E files proposal to CPUC to reduce wildfire risk, use new technology

Source: 
Lake County News

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – On Monday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. filed a proposal with the California Public Utilities Commission in which the company outlined its plans to continue efforts to reduce wildfire risk and use new technologies that increase situational awareness.

The company said the ongoing strategy detailed in its 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan is meant to help keep customers and communities safe by enhancing its Community Wildfire Safety Program.

The 1,013-page plan can be found here.

It is subject to public review and approval by the CPUC. Customers and communities can follow the proceeding and offer comments through the CPUC website.

The Community Wildfire Safety Program, which PG&E launched in March 2018 – five months after fires caused by its equipment tore through the North Bay, including Lake County – is designed to address the growing threat of severe weather and wildfires across PG&E's 70,000-square-mile service area that stretches across Northern and Central California.

"The last few years have demonstrated how California's wildfire season continues to grow longer and more devastating. We are continuing to evolve to meet the challenging conditions to more effectively reduce wildfire risk," said Sumeet Singh, senior vice president and chief risk officer. "We are accountable to our customers and our communities that we are privileged to serve. The safety actions and programs outlined in our Wildfire Mitigation Plan provide details for our continued commitment to the critical work of providing safe and reliable service."

PG&E said its new plan focuses on key areas including reducing wildfire potential by inspecting and repairing equipment, conducting enhanced vegetation management, and investing in grid technology and system hardening; improving situational awareness by installing weather stations and high-definition cameras throughout PG&E's service area, investing in PG&E's Wildfire Safety Operations Center that monitors high-fire threat areas in real time, and investing in meteorology to monitor weather conditions; and continuing to make the PSPS program better and build on the improvements from the 2020 program by upgrading the electric system to ensure PSPS is a last resort and improving support for impacted customers and communities when PSPS is necessary.

In Lake County, upgrades that PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said are part of the plan include the building of two new microgrids, one in Lucerne and one in Middletown.

Contreras pointed out that PG&E's efforts to continue to improve the PSPS program also impacted Lake County, where far fewer customers were impacted by proactive power shutoffs in 2020 than in 2019.

As of the end of 2020, Lake County had 30 weather stations and seven cameras installed and being used by PG&E to monitor conditions. Contreras said 12 of those weather stations were installed in 2020.

PG&E said the forecasted cost of wildfire mitigation programs described in the plan is about $3 billion each year for two years – 2021 and 2022.

The costs reflect what the company said is its best estimate of the costs for the proposed programs as of Feb. 5. Actual costs may vary substantially depending on actual conditions and requirements.

Email Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.

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