O&M, On-Site Power, Policy & Regulations

PG&E shuts power down to mitigate wildfire risks

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. shut off power to 48,200 customers in northern California on Wednesday, exercising caution during high potential wildfire conditions.

PG&E previously announced plans to shut off power in the event of dry, hot and windy weather. The San Francisco-based utility’s parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year after massive, deadly wildfires in recent years saddled PG&E with close to $11 billion in liabilities.

State investigators have ruled that PG&E equipment was responsible for starting some of the fires which consumed thousands of acres, property and took more than 100 lives in 2017 and 2018, according to reports. The company admitted liability in one of the blazes.

Wednesday’s shutdown began over several hours in the early morning. The Public Safety Power Shutoff impacted approximately 48,200 customers in seven counties.

Once the weather subsided and considered safe to do so, PG&E crews began patrolling power lines, repairing damaged equipment and restoring customers. In the area impacted by the PSPS, PG&E will need to conduct safety inspections of approximately 2,785 miles of transmission and distribution lines, which is equivalent to the driving distance from Sacramento to Philadelphia.

Restoration activities can only take place during daylight hours, so it’s likely that some customers may not be restored until Thursday, according to PG&E.

Earlier this year, PG&E joined California’s other two largest utility holding companies, Edison International and Sempra Energy, to pay into a newly created $21 billion wildfire fund. The fund will help protect the utilities financially in the event of another disastrous blaze.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).